Engaging Moments

By: Lelani

Part 1 Good Times and Bad

Ref: Season 6 In between 'Redemption’ through 'Track down'

Walker is walking along the lakeshore, his ladylove at his side. It’s a bright sunny day and the woman he loves is chattering a mile a minute. Walker isn’t listening; he has other things on his mind. Deciding to get married was a big step; it was the single most important decision of his life. How do you know that this is the one woman you should spend the rest of your life with? How can you be certain that there is no other woman on the face of the planet who is meant for you? Walker takes a deep breath and then decides that there couldn’t possibly be another woman who could make him feel this way. This was it. She was the one. He was certain.

The next few moments are a blur, but he remembers feeling a peace and a joy that fills him and gives him a sense of happiness that he hasn’t felt since he was a young child. Reaching for her and pressing her close, he hears more than feels the gunshot. Then she too is shot and they lay there, both bleeding. Walker turns to cover her with his body, but it’s too late, he feels the life slip from her. Using every ounce of strength left in his body, he cradles her in his arms and that’s when he sees that he is holding Alex and not Ellen as he had thought.

The scene shifts and he is lying in a hospital bed. There are machines and monitors beeping and chirping all around him. The door opens slowly and in walks his partner. C.D. has an expression on his face that tells Walker he is about to have his fears confirmed. “I’m sorry Cordell, the doctor’s did all they could, but she’s dead. Alex is dead.”

Walker shot straight up in bed. He was drenched in sweat and his heart was racing. He sat still, waiting for his breathing to slow. This had to stop. How many nights now had he been tormented by this same dream? Ellen being shot and finding it was Alex who had died. The two events had merged and become one until he no longer was sure of the truth. He didn’t know how many nights he’d had the dream, there were too many to count, but it had to stop.

Alex was being released from the hospital today. After three weeks of recovery and physical therapy, the doctor had agreed to allow her to go home as long as she wasn’t alone. Simple, she would move in to the ranch. At least that’s what he had told her when it was daylight and he was looking at her beautiful face and pleading eyes. She so wanted out of the hospital, how could he turn her down? The problem was… him. Him and these nightmares that wouldn’t stop.

Walker got up and pulled on some jogging shorts, socks and running shoes. He didn’t have a shirt on. He was already drenched with sweat, so he headed outside without bothering to warm up. It wasn’t yet daylight, but it would be by the time he returned. He set off at a punishing pace and ran mile after mile trying to outrun the demons, but they gave chase and stayed close.

Alex had her final physical therapy session at 2:00 p.m. and was showered and ready to go by 3:30 p.m. She didn’t know what was keeping Walker. He’d spent so many hours here with her in the hospital that she wasn’t used to having to wait on him. He knew all of her exercises and had helped her with them with the physical therapist watching and coaching. She knew that he would make her keep them up. She still tired easily and she was sore, but she was getting better and she just couldn’t stand to lie in this hospital bed another night more. 

Three weeks. That’s what Karl Storm had stolen from her. Three weeks of her life. The first was spent in a coma in ICU and the last two had been spent in pain and agony. The only bright spot throughout had been Walker. Alex looked down at her hand, her fiancée. She smiled as the diamond solitaire sparkled back at her. It was a beautiful ring and it made her feel so good to know that he had been thinking about asking her to marry him for such a long time. Of course the man was ‘slower ’n pond scum’ as C.D. would say, but when he picked his moments. Alex smiled again.

The door cracked open after the slightest of knocks and a bouquet of red roses entered the room followed shortly after by her redheaded cowboy. “Roses?” she exclaimed truly amazed. “Yep, want to know how much they cost?” Alex grinned at him and shook her head before burying her face in the bouquet and inhaling the fragrance. “Oh Walker, they’re beautiful. Thank you, I love them. I love you.” “In that order?” he teased. She flashed her eyes at him and he leaned in to accept the kiss she offered with her tilted head.

He stood back up and looked at her. “The nurse said that you have to ride out in the wheelchair, but I get to push.” Alex pouted, but with his help, she stood and shifted to sit in the chair. He placed the roses in her lap and pick up the small duffel bag that contained her personal items. “I can hold that,” she offered. “I got it. You navigate,” he suggested. Alex directed him to the nurses station where she said goodbye and thank you to all those who had done their best to make her stay more pleasant. She then had him wheel her to the accounting department to sign all the insurance papers and discharge papers. By the time she had him wheel her to the Ram; she was exhausted.

Alex stood and held onto the door of the Ram and looked up at the high seat. Even her stubbornness wasn’t going to get her up into that high cab. Walker laid the roses into the seat of the wheelchair and bent to gently lift her into his arms and set her on the seat. He pulled out the seatbelt and fastened her in securely and handed her the roses. Tossing the duffel bag in the back seat, he thanked the orderly who came to take the wheelchair back and went around to get into the driver’s seat.

Walker started the truck and as he reached forward to put it into gear, Alex’s hand reached out to stay his. “What is it honey?” he asked concerned. A tear shimmered in each of her eyes as she smiled at him and said, “I was beginning to think that this day would never come. I get to go home,” she finished in a whisper. “Or the next best thing anyway,” he corrected. “I’ve got everything set up for you at the ranch. I stopped by your place yesterday and packed more clothes and makeup and all that woman’s stuff you’re so fond of.” Alex felt a little pang that he didn’t feel the ranch was her home yet, but she kept silent. It just needed time — he just needed time.

Walker remained solicitous as he helped her down from the Ram once they arrived at the ranch and walked her slowly to the front door and eased her onto the couch. Alex’s legs worked fine, but sudden motions and jarring caused her tremendous pain in her upper back and shoulders. After three weeks, the scar was healing, but with so much soft tissue damage, it would be a long recovery.

After dinner, Walker saw how tired Alex was and suggested she call it a night. Alex nodded her head in agreement. She was looking forward to sleeping next to Walker and hearing his rhythmic breathing at night. She wasn’t up to any physical activities just yet, but she craved his closeness. She became puzzled and even hurt when he showed her into the downstairs guestroom that he had renovated to accommodate her and her belongings. He had even purchased a baby monitor and placed it on the nightstand so that she could call out to him if she needed anything. Alex was tempted to argue and insist on sleeping in the master bedroom with him, but she was too tired to argue and decided to let it rest until morning.

Walker lay in bed that night listening to the rhythmic sound of her breathing over the monitor, wishing it could lull him to sleep as it did when she slept in his arms. Instead, he tossed and turned and finally fell into a fitful sleep that was once again plagued by nightmares.

The next morning, Alex woke up late. She knew by the light in the room that she had slept in. The quiet surrounded her and comforted her. In the hospital, there was a constant background noise, trays being rolled down the hall, buzzers going off, nurses coming in and out. She hadn’t had a full night’s sleep since she’d awoken from her coma over two weeks before.

Alex moved tentatively, knowing that to move suddenly would bring pain. It took her several minutes to sit up on the edge of the bed and when she did so, she spied the baby monitor Walker had placed there. A part of her resented its presence, but the more practical side admitted that it was a good idea. In the hospital, she had tried to avoid using the call button, but invariably, she’d had to push it at least once a night. Reaching to switch off the base unit, she flinched as she stretched her arm out. She breathed deeply with the pain and managed the simple task. At times like this, she felt as weak as a kitten.

After a few more minutes, Alex managed to rise to her feet and shuffle into the bathroom. She ran the shower water and dropped her nightgown down onto the floor. Stepping under the spray, she enjoyed the feel of the warm water pounding on her head. It seemed to wash away the cobwebs caused by sleeping for too long. She struggled to wash herself; she could only raise her arms as high as her ears. Her shattered ribs were on the mend, but not completely healed. She was grateful that Walker had such a large water heater, because it took her well over thirty minutes to feel that she was clean.

Stepping out of the shower, she wrapped the large bath towel that hung on the bar, around herself. The mirror was completely steamed up, but by the time she had finished drying herself, she could once again see into it. She looked at the dark rings that seemed to have permanently etched themselves around her eyes. Constant pain could do that to a person. Her face was pale and her eyes… well they were the only part of her that still flashed with the fire that usually drove her.

Alex walked out to the main bedroom and surveyed her nude form in the full-length mirror. She had lost quite a bit of weight since her ordeal had begun and she could ill afford to lose it. Many people had envied her slimness, but it wasn’t a purposeful look, her body ran on a high metabolism and burned food as quickly as she consumed it. Trivette had often teased her that she was the only person he knew who ate more than Walker and didn’t look like C.D. Alex’s face showed disdain for her body; it was no longer lithe, it was downright skinny. She looked as if she was a famine victim. Even her hair had lost its shine and bounce.

Alex shook her head and turned to the dresser to get out some clothing. This was something she had to guard against. She had gone to some counseling sessions with the hospital psychologist, and had been warned about the depression that often follows victimization like what she had suffered at the hands of Karl Storm. She had spent many nights lying awake in bed in the hospital, dreaming of some way of making something positive come from her ordeal. All she could think of was some type of support group to help victims, but those already existed and she felt that there must be more that she could do. She would need to discuss it with Walker; he always made a good sounding board.

It took her another forty minutes to dress and twenty more to apply a light makeup to try and put color into her cheeks. She wasn’t able to comb her own hair and after several attempts, she finally conceded defeat and carried the comb out to see if Walker would help her. Walker had seemed so odd the previous evening that she was afraid to ask for his help. She smiled at her own silliness; he had combed her hair nightly at the hospital. She had to remember that he too had been through an ordeal and they both needed to adjust. They were engaged now though and she knew that they could work through anything and that they would come out stronger in the end.

Walker had carried the baby monitor with him when he went for his run. He had again awoken from one of his terrible nightmares and he ran for miles, but stayed near the house. Then he went to the barn and did his morning chores. He kept listening for Alex, but it was after 10:00 a.m. before he heard her begin to wake. When she’d switched off the monitor, he thought about going in to check on her, but decided against it. ‘Coward,’ he chastised himself. He was afraid to be around her. He couldn’t explain it rationally, but he was nervous and tongue-tied. He felt like he had when he first met her and she knocked him to his knees. He’d fought long and hard to resist her pull, but she’d wrapped him in her web and now she owned him body and soul.

Walker couldn’t believe his own fanciful musings. Alex was no black widow who had lured him into her web. She was a bright, vibrant, beautiful woman and he couldn’t help falling in love with her. A flash of his dream came to mind and he remembered wondering if Ellen was the only woman on the planet for him just before he’d tried to ask her to marry him. He’d been so certain that she was. All the way up until he’d sat on a witness stand and been grilled by the ‘pit bull in heels.’ Suddenly, the solid earth he’d built his life on had plummeted out from under him and he free fell straight in love with her. He’d fought it long and hard, but to no avail.  And now… now he didn’t know what to think. He loved her as much as ever, but he was so afraid of losing her that he needed to push her away some, try to hold onto a piece of himself so that if she did ever leave him, there would be something left of him. 

Alex came from the bedroom to find Walker in the kitchen. He figured she would be hungry after sleeping so long, so he had started fixing her something to eat. God knew she could use it. She had lost so much weight that it was painful to look at her. She looked incredibly fragile and the makeup she wore couldn’t mask the pain he saw in her eyes. It broke his heart to see her suffer so.

“Hi, sleep well?” he asked her. He’d secretly looked in on her earlier and knew that she had slept very well, probably for the first time in weeks he decided. “Yes, I did. That’s a comfortable bed. I’d forgotten, I haven’t been in it in so long,” she said while thinking ‘hint hint.’ Walker just smiled blandly at her and turned to the oven. “I’m heating up a chicken pot pie. C.D. sent it and said that you were to eat it all. He said that it had some sort of magical healing powers.” “It probably does.” “Well, he said that it was made with love.” “He’s so sweet,” she said in a gruff voice that made Walker look up. He saw the tears shimmering in her eyes, but didn’t say anything. The psychologist at the hospital had told him that she would be extremely emotional for some time.

“Walker, where did you put my medicine?” Alex asked. “It’s over here, Alex. I’ll get it for you.” “No, I’ll get it,” she insisted. She didn’t want him to see how much pain medication she was taking. It was within the prescribed dosage, but she knew that he didn’t like her to rely on it. She didn’t particularly care though; it was necessary if she was to get through the day. She took out the tablets and then went to get the milk from the refrigerator. Walker had an unopened gallon jug in the fridge and she couldn’t lift it. “Walker…” He turned and saw her plight and came over to help her without a word. Alex ate in relative silence and afterward went to sit on the porch swing with a pillow behind her. She craved the fresh air and sunshine. Walker checked on her periodically and even combed her hair without being asked when he saw her take the comb out from her back pocket before sitting on the swing.

Later in the afternoon, Walker put her through her paces as he helped her with her exercises. As always, she cried as she struggled with the painful movements. Walker steeled himself against his sympathy for her. He knew that it was essential that she do these exercises if she was to heal completely.

Alex napped later and they spent a quiet evening in front of the television. Alex sat on the couch and Walker sat in the chair. Finally, she bit her lip and forced herself to ask him for a favor. After his distant treatment all day, it was hard to do. “Walker?” “Hmm?” “Will you massage the knots in my shoulders? I’m sorry to ask, but I’ve really stiffened up. At the hospital, they always had me go in the whirlpool after my physical therapy and the massage therapist worked on me some, too.” Walker felt like a complete heel. He knew that about her routine at the hospital and the physical therapist had told him of the importance of it. “Of course, Alex. Why don’t you get into your nightclothes and lay on the bed. That way, I can do a better job.” Alex’s head was facing her lap and he saw her chin quiver as she strained to tell him the rest of it.

“I don’t think I can. I don’t think I can get up and I know that I can’t lift my arms to undress.” If someone had thrust a knife into Walker’s heart, it couldn’t have hurt him more. He had watched Alex grow in confidence over the years they had been lovers so that she didn’t care if she was dressed or undressed in front of him. Now, she fought for the courage to ask for help from him to get ready for bed.

He wasn’t able to say anything; he simply stood up and walked to the couch. He scooped his arm underneath her legs and placed the other on her back, below the injury. He lifted her carefully and strode to the guestroom with her snug in his arms, her face pressed against his chest with her silent tears soaking his shirt. He carefully sat her on the end of the bed and gently undressed her. Pulling down the covers, he laid her on the sheet so that she was on her stomach. Walker left to go into the bathroom and find some lotion. He warmed it in the palms of his hands and smoothed it over her back. He avoided touching the healing wound directly and he used a very gentle pressure as he eased the bunched muscles.

Walker focused on his task and tried desperately to shut out the surge of longing that flooded him as he touched her skin and felt its warmth beneath his palms. When he finally finished, he picked up one of his oversized t-shirts and helped her to ease it on. Walker’s face tightened as he saw just how thin she had become. Her bones jutted out at angles and the soft roundness that he loved so much was gone. Sliding her down into the bed and pulling the covers up to her chin, he sat on the side of the bed and stroked her hand that lay in his. His fingers encountered the diamond solitaire on her finger and he began twisting it slowly.

“Alex, I’m sorry. I know this is hard for you. I don’t know what to say. I can’t tell you what I’m feeling because I don’t know how to put it into words. You do know that I love you, don’t you?” Alex’s eyes finally met his and she nodded slightly. “It’s just going to take time, please be patient with me.” Alex nodded again and then asked, “Walker, please, will you stay with me tonight?” Walker hesitated, but he stood and stripped down to his briefs and walked around the bed and slid beneath the covers on the other side. He stayed far from her afraid to jostle her, but he lay on his side facing her and reached his hand over to rest lightly on her abdomen. “Go to sleep, Alex. I’m here.” Alex’s hand moved to cover his and finally, she did relax into sleep.

Two hours later, Alex was in such pain that she woke. Walker lay next to her thrashing and moaning. “Walker, honey, wake up.” It took several moments and Alex had to call his name twice more before he surfaced from the nightmare. “Walker?” He blinked a few times and then seeing her so close to him, he rolled toward her and gathered her in his arms and held her tightly. Alex gritted her teeth and let him hold her until he finally relaxed his grip. “I’m sorry, did I hurt you?” he said as he became more aware of his surroundings and his memory returned. “That’s what woke me up actually. Could you please get me my pain medicine?” He nodded and slid out of the bed to go to the kitchen.

He returned with a pain pill and a glass of milk with a straw so that she could drink it without having to sit up. He encouraged her to finish the milk and then helped her to the bathroom, as she needed that as well. After settling her back in the bed, Walker sat next to her again and stroked the hair from her forehead. Then he did something he had never done before, but remembered his father doing when he was a young boy. He began to chant in a quiet baritone. The soothing rhythm of the chant and the pain medicine combined to ease Alex back to sleep. As Walker sat there watching the even rise and fall of her chest, he remembered his father chanting to him to chase away the evil spirits when he’d had a nightmare as a child. He’d forgotten, but perhaps he needed the chant as much as Alex. After he was certain that she was asleep, he checked that the monitor was turned on and headed upstairs to his own bed.

The circle of friends fell into a pattern of caring for Alex. Walker made sure she was up, showered and fed in the mornings before leaving for work. C.D. arrived at lunchtime to help her with anything she might need and to bring her lunch. She felt guilty that he left his bar to take care of her, but when she protested, he wouldn’t listen to her. “There’s few things in life more important than helpin’ a friend darlin’ and some old Bar and Grill certainly ain’t one of ‘em,” he told her. Jimmy brought Alex dinner nearly every night. He stopped by C.D.’s and picked up whatever special concoction he had prepared for her and drove it out to the ranch. Walker returned home and helped her with her physical therapy while Jimmy fed the horses and then the three of them usually ate together.

After Jimmy left each night, Walker would give Alex her massage and tuck her into bed and chant her to sleep. She missed Walker sleeping next to her, but he was attentive and patient and she couldn’t fault him for the care he gave her. As the days progressed, Alex grew stronger and the pain lessened. She was put on a milder pain medication and allowed more activities. Still, she wasn’t allowed to drive or to return to work. Instead, she began plotting and planning for a center to help victims of crimes. She decided not to tell Walker of her plan just yet, she needed to figure out what the wall he had built around himself was about first. Instead, she invited her friend, Josie, out to the ranch to discuss her ideas. The two women found that they had similar goals and began writing some of them down. They met for hours, going over different aspects of their dream, accepting, rejecting and refining it.

C.D.’s visits were less frequent, Jimmy came out every two or three days and only Walker remained a constant in her recovery. Shelley came out and took Alex to the doctor for a checkup three weeks after she moved into the ranch. Shelly had more freedom with her schedule than Josie did and so was available at the time Alex needed her. Alex knew that C.D. would take her, but she felt more comfortable with a woman driving her to the doctor’s office for some reason. Alex decided that she was being silly. It wasn’t as if she was going to have Shelley come into the exam room with her, but she planned to ask some pretty pointed questions and just knowing C.D. was in the waiting room would have made her more stressed.

“Well Alex, you’re coming along nicely. Your blood cell count is normal, you’re no longer anemic and you’ve gained four pounds back. I want you to gain at least six more, but it can be a gradual gain. Your upper body strength has improved and your lung capacity is normal.” “Does that mean I can go back to work?” she questioned. “How long can you sit up before you feel discomfort?” he questioned. Alex thought about lying, but knew it would be a waste of time. “About an hour,” she exaggerated slightly. “And how do you think you’re going to go back to work to sit for eight hours a day?” he asked. “How about half days?” “Yeah, because being an ADA is one of those jobs you can just leave when the clock says it’s time to go,” he said with sarcasm. “I’m going crazy not being able to do anything.” “You can do things, but not things that require you to sit for long periods of time. Look Alex, you could go back to work and after an hour or two, you’d be in pain so you’d take a pain pill. A couple hours later, it would wear off and you’d take another. In the meantime, your muscles would get tighter and tighter. It would work against everything you’re trying to do with your physical therapy. Give your body time to heal properly and I promise you’ll thank me in the end. You don’t want to end up with long term pain from this do you?” “No,” she agreed grudgingly. “Okay then, do what the doctor orders.”

Alex paused for a minute and then asked. “Would it be all right to… um…” “To, um, what?” “Resume relations?” she asked. “Sex?” he asked bluntly for clarification. “Yes,” she replied as her cheeks showed more color than they had in months. “Well, you’d have to be careful as would your partner. I would recommend that you be on top, I don’t think you should try and support another person’s weight just yet. As long as you didn’t get too athletic, I don’t see why not.” “Really? What about driving?” “I’m not sure how the two are related,” he teased, “but you can drive short distances, ten minute trips to the store, that’s it.” Alex beamed and thanked the doctor and headed out.

Shelley saw the smile on Alex’s face as she rejoined her in the waiting room. “I take it you got good news,” she said with a question in her voice. “Oh yeah, I can… drive again,” Alex ended, catching herself at the last moment. “That’s great. Did he say when you could go back to work?” “No, not at least for another two weeks when I have another check up, but I’ll take what I can get,” Alex said. The two women celebrated by having lunch at a favorite restaurant and then Alex had Shelley drop her at her apartment.

After a nap, Alex packed a lightweight bag to take back to the ranch and got her car keys. Jimmy had been driving her car on the weekends to keep the battery charged and it started right up when she got in. The ranch was further than her ten-minute limit, but she didn’t care, she’d pay the price later. She had some freedom back.

Walker called her that afternoon and told her that he was going to be out on a stakeout and wouldn’t be home until very late. Alex was disappointed at first, but then decided it was for the best. She needed plenty of rest in order to play out the seduction scene she had planned. “Okay honey, I’ll be fine. The doctor said I could start doing a lot more and I’ll be good and do my exercises on my own.” “Still, I don’t like for you to be alone, I’ll call C.D.” “No, I don’t want to bother him. Kim’s been saying that she wanted to get together and show me her honeymoon pictures, I’ll call her and see if she’s available.” “Okay, but if not, call C.D. I don’t want you alone that long.” “Yes sir,” she said with a mock salute. “Don’t get smart with me woman, I’ll tan your hide when I get home,” he teased in a warm voice. “Promises, promises,” she taunted. Walker caught his breath as the longing surged through him again.

Laying in the master bed listening to her breathe through the monitor was pure torture. Each time she sighed, his stomach muscles clenched and when the sheets rustled as she turned over in bed… Walker refocused on the conversation and put a clamp on his wayward thoughts. “I hope to be home by one or two in the morning, but I’ll come in quietly. Call me on Trivette’s cell phone if you need anything.” “I only need you darling,” she said as she ended the conversation leaving the suggestive ending hanging in the air.

Kim did end up coming over for a short visit that evening. She shared her honeymoon pictures and her happiness with Alex. She admitted that she and Phil had faced some challenging ‘married moments,’ but she was happy and it showed in her beautiful eyes. Alex couldn’t help but feel a pang of jealousy, but she scolded herself and enjoyed her friend’s happiness.

Alex looked at the pictures and remembered telling Walker about her dream of ‘running wild on the beaches of Tahiti’ with him, after he’d been injured rescuing a little girl from a car crash. As she looked at the beaches and ocean, she began to get an idea. Maybe a tropical themed seduction… Alex got a gleam in her eye as she began plotting. She managed to get Kim to head out early by mentioning that she was getting tired. It was true, but mostly, she just wanted to go to bed to plot and plan the next evening with Walker. They’d been like friendly strangers for weeks now and she planned to turn up the heat.

Walker came in at 2:30 and stole into Alex’s room to watch her sleep. She seemed to be sleeping peacefully and he stood there for long moments just gazing at her. His hand reached out toward her forehead, but he caught himself and pulled his hand back before touching her. He so loved the woman, but he just couldn’t seem to get past the fear that plagued him in the form of nightmares that visited him relentlessly. With a deep sigh, he walked back out of her room in his usual stealth mode and headed up to bed. An hour later, he was still awake listening to her breathe. The monitor was no longer necessary, but since she wasn’t sleeping next to him, it was the next best thing.

The next day, Alex alternated between preparing for her big seduction scene and resting. She combined the two by napping in the yard on a blanket, browning her skin to a honey gold. She had gained weight and the sparkle was back in her eyes. She may not have the bounce in her step back just yet, but she decided she was ready to cause a bounce in Walker’s. Alex spent a great deal of the day smiling at her secret wicked thoughts. Her skin tingled each time she imagined his hand caressing it. By evening, she was strung so tight, she was afraid she would burst.

She waited in the master bedroom for Walker to come up the stairs. The room was lit with Japanese lanterns. There were beach towels on the floor with sand buckets and seashells scattered around and she had strewn petals of plumeria, the fragrant flower used to make lei’s on top of the ocean-blue throw she’d draped over the bed. There was a huge bouquet of tropical plants, red ginger, bird of paradise, hibiscus, orchids and more on each nightstand. She had a small table in the bedroom that was filled with grilled fish, rice and a fruit platter. The tablecloth was banana leaves and the glasses were hollowed out pineapples filled with fruity rum drinks. Alex had had the flowers delivered and tipped the delivery person fifty dollars to move the furniture for her and to carry everything she needed up to the room. She’d managed to put the room together with a minimum of physical effort and with all of her naps, she felt very refreshed and ready for a night filled with passion.

Walker called her name as he finally headed upstairs in search of her. She hadn’t been in his room since her stay in the hospital and he didn’t expect to see her there. He walked in and his senses were bombarded with the sound of the ocean as it played on the CD player, the scent of food and flowers and the sight of Alex standing amidst the explosion of color in a bikini top and a short wrap-around floral skirt. He stopped with his hand on the door and just stared, not sure how to react.

“If you want to take a dip in the ocean, dinner will wait,” she said softly indicating the master bathroom where a warm bath was drawn. Walker nodded briefly and headed into the sanctuary of the bathroom and stripped quickly, stepping into the bathtub. A few minutes later, Alex entered carrying a pair of swim trunks and a beach towel. “I brought these for you,” she said, laying them on the countertop.

“Alex, what is going on?” he asked still not sure how to react. “I told you once when you were in that coma that I wanted to be ‘running wild on the beaches of Tahiti’ with you. Now, I’ve had my turn in a coma and if we can’t get to Tahiti, I thought I’d bring a little of it to us.” “But Alex… correct me if I’m wrong, but it looks like you have more planned than dinner and conversation.” “You’re not wrong,” she confirmed. “What about your injury?” “The doctor gave us his blessing. He said that I could expand my activities. I can drive… and I can… make love… carefully.” “How carefully? Honey, I don’t want to do anything that might hurt you…” “You just lie back and let me tell you what hurts and what feels… heavenly.”

Walker stood up, not at all embarrassed by his nudity. He had never been modest with Alex and after all they’d shared, he wasn’t about to start now. He reached for the towel and dried himself and pulled on the trunks she’d provided him with. He felt a familiar tightening in his abdomen and decided to let her take the lead, she’d obviously spent a great deal of time planning and preparing.

She led him back into the bedroom and they sat in the beach chairs to eat their meal. She had a pillow in hers to support her back and it forced her back to arch slightly, causing her breasts to tempt his eyes away from her face. She was filling back out and Walker ached to taste the ripe nipples once again. Alex picked up her pineapple cup and took a drink. She looked at him from under her lashes and her tongue slid out to lick the sweet drops of fruity drink from her lips. She imagined that her tongue was tasting his chest. Her eyes were so locked on the muscular ridges and wiry hair that he had to call her name twice to get her attention.

“Alex?” he repeated. Looking up, Alex colored and smiled, caught in her fascination with his body. “It’s been so long…” she whispered. “I know. I agreed to let you take the lead, but I think I have a CD we can dance to…” he said. Alex smiled and nodded, agreeing with his suggestion. He stood and looked for something slow and romantic. He finally found the CD that Trivette had given him during one of his attempts to ‘expand his horizons’. The rhythmic beat of the drums filled the air with a sound that Alex felt in the depths of her gut. She looked at Walker surprised, expecting his usual country sounds. He shrugged and smiled, “it seemed to fit the atmosphere better.” She chuckled as she stepped into his arms and finally, after weeks of pain and suffering, came home.

Walker moved her slowly as the island style music played. The beat of the drums seemed to dictate the beat of their hearts. The high sweet notes of the woodwind instrument carried their spirits with it as it soared on the wind currents. Romance blended with seduction until the two were tightly intertwined. Alex rested her head against the hard wall of Walker’s chest. Her cheek rubbed against the hair that curled there and then she turned slightly to face him and allow her lips to touch the warm skin. One touch led to one taste, which led to a nibble. Soon, her mouth devoured each of his male nipples and all the skin between them. Walker’s head was thrown back as he allowed her to drink her fill of his chest. His hands moved up her back to the skin between her shoulder blades. He used his thumbs to gently knead her muscles surrounding the raised scar tissue. He knew that if those muscles tightened, she would be in pain, so he worked diligently to keep them relaxed and supple.

Alex changed the tempo of their exploration with one bold nip to his pectoral muscles. Walker flinched and jerked back slightly, glaring a warning at her. “Watch those sharp teeth of yours,” he growled. “Or what?” she challenged. “You’re getting awful brave here,” he warned. “You don’t scare me, Cowboy.” “You’re not as smart as you look,” he teased back. His hand reached up and cupped her breast, his thumb stroking over the tip until it rose up to meet each stroke. His hand fell away and he reached up his other hand to repeat the process to the other breast.

Once he had her full attention, he took her hands and placed them so that they covered her full aching breasts. Then, with his hands still free, he reached around her neck and unfastened the straps and let them fall. His hands then went around to her back and undid the clasp. The only thing holding her top on were her own hands. He took a step back and locked his eyes on her hands waiting. Standing proud and tall, Alex lowered her hands allowing the bikini top to drift down to the floor. Without touching her with anything but his mouth, Walker leaned forward and kissed the tips of her breasts gently. He stood back up and looked at her waiting for her plea, knowing it was coming. “Walker, please…” He smiled a satisfied smile and leaned forward capturing her mouth with his and smothering her pleas turning them into whimpers of pleasure.

Alex ran her hands up his back and into his hair holding his mouth tightly against hers. Both breathed deeply through their noses as their mouths melded into an endless kiss. His tongue thrust into her mouth invading its deepest recesses. She sucked it and stroked her own tongue over his and then retreated causing him to seek it back out. Alex’s hands dug into his scalp and then smoothed and ruffled his hair enjoying the texture as it abraded her hands.

Walker finally broke the kiss to crush her to his chest. Her whimper of pain reminded him of her delicate state and he began to kiss her face, her neck, her throat. He trailed kisses down to her pulse point at the base of her neck and licked it. On down he trailed, until his tongue was invading her bellybutton and he was on his knees in front of her. Alex’s hands continued their fascination with his hair. She couldn’t get enough of the feel as she pressed his face against her smooth flat abdomen. Walker’s hands encircled her waist and then his large fingers untied the knot at her hip that kept the skirt up. It joined the bikini top on the floor.

Alex stood there with nothing but very small bikini bottoms on. The narrow strap rested on her high hipbones and the tiny V of material that barely covered the mound of hair that protected her female core drew Walker’s eyes. His finger reached up and trailed straight down the middle of the material and stroked her lightly. “Walker…” she cried with tears in her eyes. “Shh…” he shushed her as his index finger trailed back up again. He sat back on his heels and continued to tease and torment her with the gentle caress of that one finger. He moved it up and down and then over to the side where he traced the edge of the material. Alex’s legs were beginning to shake and she feared they would buckle as her body lost its ability to do anything but feel and react.

Stroking his finger up to her hipbone, Walker hooked his finger into the spaghetti strap there and hooked his other index finger into the other side. Slowly, he peeled the wisp of material down, easing it from the damp heat of her body. It slid down her legs and joined the rest of her garments on the floor.

Walker sat back up on his knees and pressed his face to the blond curls at the apex of her thighs. He nuzzled her with his nose, inhaling her feminine scent. Using his nose to find her secret treasure, his tongue extended to taste it. Alex’s hands grasped his thick shoulders to balance herself and her legs separated in an attempt to both balance herself and allow him easier access. He flicked his tongue back and forth over the sensitive nub, bringing more guttural noises from her throat. Alex arched her back slightly to urge him to enter her.

Walker’s index finger eased up into her depths and probed gently inside the moist cavern. “More,” she begged. Another finger slid in to join the first and he pushed the two in as deeply as they could go and twisted back and forth. She cried out as the pleasure continued to build and begged him for still more. Easing his fingers back out to her entrance, he used them to keep her open and then inserted his tongue. He rolled and flattened it against her entrance and then stuck it as deeply into her as it would go.

Alex’s body was now quivering like jelly and she was no longer capable of any thought beyond the release that his tormenting was bringing her inexorably closer to. Sliding his tongue back up to her clitoris, Walker again inserted one finger and then two. He began pumping his hand in and out of her twisting as he went. Just as she was about to reach orgasm, he added a third finger, stretching her wide and applying pressure to the secret spot that only he had found. With his tongue still lapping the swollen bundle of nerve endings, Alex plummeted over into ecstasy. The cry that came from her was ripped from her body and as her muscles contracted around his hand, she slumped down onto the carpet with him.

Walker’s hand was pinned between her legs as she sat on her knees and leaned against his chest sobbing. He withdrew his hand and pulled her into his body and then stood with her and guided her to the bed. He held her in his arms as they lay together with the scent of the crushed flowers filling their nostrils. His hand stroked her hair in a gentle fashion designed to calm her.

As her crying slowed and then stopped, she began to speak in a whisper. “Walker, I missed you so much. I’m sorry to be so emotional. I just felt that I lost the most precious thing in my life and you just gave it back to me. I’ve felt so far from you… I love you so much…” “I know honey. It’s been a difficult time for us both. Go to sleep, we’ll talk more tomorrow.” “But.. What about you? You never…” “Hush, it’s all right. You need to rest and there’s always tomorrow. Wait, I’ll get the afghan and then we can just sleep like this.”

Walker got up and picked up the afghan that sat over on the footlocker in the corner of the room. He turned out the lanterns and pulled the blanket over them. Gently shifting Alex so that she was able to get comfortable, they both gave in to fatigue.

Walker is walking along the lakeshore, his ladylove at his side. It’s a bright sunny day and the woman he loves is chattering a mile a minute. Walker isn’t listening… The sound of gunshots… Walker turns to cover her with his body, but it’s too late, he feels the life slip from her. Using every ounce of strength left in his body, he cradles her in his arms and that’s when he sees that he is holding Alex and not Ellen as he had thought…

Walker’s eyes flew open as the dream came to the same horrifying ending as it did night after night. He lay there panting, trying to remember where he was and whom he held in his arms. He lifted his hand to stroke the silky hair. Both Alex and Ellen had long silky hair. The flowers drowned out the scent of the woman he held. What was real and what was imagined? Slowly, reality took back over his befuddled mind. He was in his own bed with Alex sleeping in his arms. She wasn’t dead; she was alive. Gloriously, vibrantly alive! He lay there listening to her breathing, feeling her body heat and pressing his palm against her throat to feel the steady pulse that reassured him this was real. He hadn’t told her that although he’d been aroused, he had not reached a state that would allow him to perform. He wasn’t sure what the problem was, but he hoped that it was a temporary affliction that would resolve itself. He was sure it was… Alex would help cure him… He just needed to get some rest…

The next morning, Walker woke before Alex and he quickly showered and dressed while she slumbered. He felt good except for the nagging worry about his little ‘problem’ the night before. He had never had anything similar happen to him and he wasn’t sure what to think about it. He went downstairs to prepare breakfast and Alex joined him just as he piled it onto the plates. “Hi Sleeping Beauty,” he greeted her. She didn’t respond verbally, her hair was still tousled and all she’d done was use the restroom, brush her teeth and pull on one of his t-shirts. She walked into his arms for a hug and dozed against his broad chest. Walker chuckled at her ‘sleep walking’ and reached around behind her for his coffee cup. He waved it temptingly under her nose and she grasped the mug like a drowning victim grasps a life vest.

After sipping the hot brew, Alex’s eyes popped open and she smiled at Walker. “Thank you, this is just what I needed. I feel as if I’ve run a marathon, I just can’t get going this morning.” “Well, you don’t have to. Sit down and I’ll serve you breakfast and then I’ve got to get to work and you can just go on back to bed.” Alex smiled in such a way that he was reminded of a child being told she could have a treasured doll. “I can go back to bed, can’t I? Too bad it has to be alone though.” “Hmm… well, you need the rest. You probably overdid things yesterday. However did you get all of that stuff up the stairs?” “I paid someone to help me. Don’t worry I didn’t do anything I wasn’t supposed to.” “Well, I’m going to clean it up before I go to work. I don’t want you trying to do it while I’m gone.” “Just move the furniture back, I’ll pick up the little stuff. Maybe I’ll store it all in a box for future use.” Walker grinned at her. “I’ll put a box in the room for you, but you just close it and label it, I’ll carry it up to the attic when I get home tonight.” “Yes, boss.” “Don’t get cheeky lady. I’ll make you do twice as many exercises tonight.” “Promises, promises…” “I meant your physical therapy exercises,” he scolded her. “You did?” she asked in wide-eyed innocence. Walker just shook his head at her and continued with his meal.

The rest of the day passed as if it was a dream for Alex. She alternated between napping, stretching, cleaning, and preparing for when Walker came home. Whenever she began to feel lonely, she remembered the goodbye kiss he’d left her with and her heart would soar again in anticipation of the night. Walker had a ‘typical’ day, if any day in his job could be described as typical. He and Trivette were investigating a series of bank robberies, but there weren’t any solid leads as yet. He managed to get off work at a reasonable time and headed home to see what Alex had planned for him.

Alex was sitting on the porch swing, when Walker returned, enjoying the cool breeze that gently blew across the porch. It had been another hot summer day and she was taking advantage of any breeze she could find. Walker took the steps two at a time and joined her on the swing. It took her about half a second to shift over onto his lap and greet him with a kiss. “I missed you today,” she said when she finally surfaced for air. “I kinda got that impression from your greeting,” he said with a smile on his face and in his voice. “Did you have a good day at work?” “So-so, how about you? What did you get up to today?” “Nothing much, it was a pretty lazy day.” “Good, cause I plan to work you tonight!” “Really?” she asked as her pupils dilated. “Yes, really. Go get changed and meet me in the gym.” Alex’s lip jutted out in a pout. “I’d rather meet you upstairs… say… in the shower?” “Nope, you tricked me into skipping your workout yesterday, but it won’t work twice.” “Darn,” she complained good-naturedly and hopped off his lap to go change into workout clothes.

Walker was true to his word and put her through her paces. He knew that the more she worked her damaged muscles, the more blood would flow to the area and the faster the healing process would occur. He’d taken it easy on her while she was in so much pain, but she was completely off the pain pills now and ready to really work. By the time he agreed to call it quits, Alex felt as if her muscles were made of Jell-O. “You’re a mean slave driver,” she complained to him, as she lay curled on the matt panting. “Roll over onto your stomach and let me work on those shoulder muscles before they tighten up on you,” he instructed without commenting on her complaint.

She willingly allowed him to work his magic on her neck, shoulder and back muscles. After twenty minutes of deep tissue massage that increased the blood flow even more, but was also painful, he switched to a soothing gentle massage for an additional ten minutes. Just as she was drifting to sleep, he smacked her rounded bottom and stood up. “Ouch!” she hollered. “Get up and take a warm shower,” he commanded in his best ‘physical trainer’ voice. “Why? Are you done torturing me for the night?” she asked sarcastically. “Maybe,” he answered noncommittally. “What did you plan for dinner tonight?” he asked. “I have steaks marinating, I thought you could barbecue them. It’s too hot to turn the oven on.” “Good idea. I’ll get the barbecue going while you’re in the shower and then I’ll grab a shower too before cooking them.” “You don’t want to share and save on water? You know, we may be looking at a drought this year.” “Alex, history has proven that when you and I shower together, there is no water conservation going on.” Alex smiled at him and arched her eyebrows up and down at him. “And yet, I’ve never once heard you complain, huh?” She batted her lashes at him and sashayed her backside out of the room and back upstairs.

Walker hopped on the Total Gym and did a few reps of his own. He knew he had plenty of time. Her muscles would be aching and he was pretty certain that if he bet the farm on whether or not she would end up taking a long soak in a tub, he wouldn’t have to worry about having a place to live come morning. 

Walker finished his work out, started the barbecue, showered and was outside grilling the steaks when Alex emerged. He smiled at his own private joke and asked her if she needed any help indoors. Alex had decided they should eat outside, so he carried the salad and watermelon slices to the table while she brought the lighter dishes. He also ran back in for the lemonade and they sat down under the stars to eat in the fresh air.

After a filling meal, they lounged together on the porch swing. Walker pointed out the constellations and Alex snuggled sleepily against his shoulder. Her hand caressed his chest and her fingers slipped the buttons out of the buttonholes until she could explore his skin. She wrapped the curls of hair she found there around her index finger and tugged gently. Walker allowed her to play and explore, all the while hoping that his body would respond in its usual way to her nearness. Alex’s caresses became bolder and she was surprised to find that when she reached the fly of his trousers, he wasn’t straining against it. Undeterred, she drew the zipper down and reached inside to pull him free of his jeans and briefs. Her hand encircled him and she began stroking him.

It took some time, but her actions were gaining some response. Walker nearly held his breath, willing his body to respond fully. Alex leaned into his mouth and began using her tongue to stroke his while her hand continued it’s rhythmic caress. Kissing down his chest, she paused to lave each nipple and explore his navel. Half lying, with her head in his lap, she touched the round tip of him with her tongue. She was surprised not to find the pre cum that was always beaded there, waiting for her to taste him. With renewed determination, she swallowed as much of him into her mouth as she was able. When she found that she was able to accommodate the full length of him, she knew that something was wrong. After several minutes of alternating between, licking and sucking, there was no noticeable difference. Finally, she eased herself back up to look into his eyes. “Walker?” she asked, uncertain how to proceed. “I’m sorry honey, I guess I’m more tired than I thought. Let’s just go on in and get some sleep.”

Alex was stunned, but didn’t quite know what to do. Her ex-husband had not been able to ‘get it up’ on a regular basis, but Walker had NEVER had that problem, just the opposite in fact. They would often be in a public place and she would notice that he was hard and trying to disguise his need. She’d lost count of the fundraisers they’d been to that he made her stand slightly in front of him to cover his ‘problem.’ Of course, in those circumstances, she hadn’t helped by leaning back slightly and rubbing him with her derriere. She’d paid for her teasing long into the night on many occasions and never regretted it. “Walker, is something bothering you? Do you want to talk?” “No, Alex. I’m just tired and I want to go to bed. I’ll see you in the morning.” So not only did he want to go to bed, but apparently, she wasn’t invited. Alex allowed him to leave the porch without any further conversation. She sat on the porch swing for another hour and then the ache in her back made her go on to bed herself, but sleep was elusive.

The next morning, Alex overslept, having tossed and turned well into the night. When she woke up, she found that Walker was already gone. Alex had a lazy morning at the ranch and then drove to C.D.’s for lunch. C.D. was happy to see her and he took a break and sat at the booth with her. He felt that it was his sworn duty to put more meat on her bones, so he harassed her into eating more food. Alex’s appetite was down due to her worry over Walker. She finally looked at C.D. in exasperation, “C.D., you should have been a trainer for Sumo wrestlers. If I ate as much as you wanted me to, you’d have to widen the door to this place so I could get in.” “Alex, you didn’t eat enough to keep a mosquito buzzin’. How’re you ever goin’ to get back your figure? You’re not much more’n bones.” “You really think I look that bad? Maybe that’s why Walker…” “Why Walker what? Somethin’ wrong between you and Cordell, honey? You tell ol’ C.D. your troubles and I guar-an-tee we’ll fix ‘em.” “Nothing’s wrong C.D., he just doesn’t seem all that interested in me lately.” “Honey, let me tell you, Cordell is plenty interested. I can’t get the man to say two words and when he does, it’s all about you.” Alex just shrugged and refused to tell C.D. any more. She hadn’t meant to let anything slip.

Later that evening, Walker stopped in for a beer. He rarely drank and never alone, so C.D. joined him. “Howdy Cordell, how’s everythin’?” Walker grunted in reply. “That good, huh? Well, I never did call you a chatterbox, but you’re even more tight lipped than usual. What’re ya doin’ in here anyways? Don’t you have a beautiful lady waitin’ for you at home? I know I’m pretty, but I can’t hold a candle to Alex.” C.D. watched closely for any telltale signs that his words were hitting a nerve. He watched Walker’s eyes squint slightly at the mention of Alex. “Course, I can’t imagine that beer tastes as good as her lips. Why aren’t you at home tastin’ those, Cordell?” “Mind your own business,” came the gruff reply. “So you can talk. Well that’s a relief. Thought for a minute there that you’d lost the power of speech.” “Who needs to talk with you around? You talk more than ten men. Ten women!” “Oh an insult. You really are wantin’ to talk about somethin’. Well, what is it? Come on, I’m your ol’ partner; remember? You can tell me anything.”

Walker took a swig of beer. He’d only tasted it once the whole time he’d sat there. He would never admit it, but he really had come in for C.D.’s advice. He had no desire to drink a beer, but he couldn’t go home and have another humiliating encounter with Alex either. “So, what is it? You decided that you don’t love her after all and don’t know how to ask for the ring back?” “Of course not!” Walker hotly denied. “Found out she can’t cook?” “I already knew that,” Walker said wryly. “Doesn’t keep a neat house then?” Walker just shook his head. He didn’t know anyone neater than Alex. “Nags all the time?” Walker just wrinkled his face at the absurdity of that. He and Alex had some pretty heated debates, but he would never call her a nag. Opinionated maybe, even bull headed, but never a nag.

“Well, there’s not much a man wants from a woman. Cook him good meals, keep his house clean and leave him alone.” “In what age, C.D.? My God, if Alex could hear you talk!” “I’m not talkin’ ‘bout all that Women’s Lib stuff, I’m talkin’ ‘bout what a man wants. And the only other thing he wants is a woman who knows how to warm his bed. The other stuff doesn’t matter if she’s real good at that.” Walker colored slightly, but kept quiet. “Hmmm, no good in bed, huh? Go figure. The woman has sex appeal pouring out of her. That face and that body…” “C.D.! That’s my fiancée you’re talking about!” “Well, I know it, but I’m not dead ya know! She’s like a daughter to me, but I’m not blind to the fact that a normal, healthy man would fall all over himself to bed her.” “Well, then I guess I’m not a ‘normal, healthy man’,” Walker said quietly. “Ahhhh….” “What’s that supposed to mean?” “Just that I think I know the problem.” “Oh really?” “Yep, she’s ‘all hot to trot and the horse is dead’.” “Good god, C.D.! Do you have a saying for everything?” “Well now Cordell, this ain’t the first time this ‘affliction’ has hit a man. In fact, it’s common. Why, I think most men have the problem at some time in their life.” “Really? Has it ever happened to you?” “Well, to tell you the truth, it has. It was just after the war. I came back from Korea ready to sow all sorts of wild oats, but there wasn’t a filly around who could bring this horse to life.” Walker just shook his head in amazement at how C.D. could find a euphemism for just about everything in life. ‘What’d you do?” “Well, I tell ya, it took some time. At first, I thought I was just tired. And then I thought that maybe I’d been injured. I finally figured out that I was just feelin’ guilty. A lot of men I served with didn’t come home to sow any ‘wild oats.’ They came home in a box, if they came home at all. Took awhile, but I finally forgave myself for livin’ and then got on with my life. I figured those boys wouldn’t want me to be miserable just because I had the good fortune to survive.”

“I know what you mean; survivor’s guilt. I suffered from it after Nam. This isn’t that though.” “No, but it’s somethin’. I doubt that it’s a coincidence that it’s happenin’ right after Alex was shot. I remember what it was like Cordell, waitin’ to see if she was goin’ to live or die.” “I know. It was hell. But she did live and I do love her and I don’t know why this is happening.” “Have you talked to her about it?” “No, not really. I don’t know what to say.” “Maybe just tell her that you don’t know what’s wrong, but that you do love her. She’s a pretty smart lady, Cordell. She’ll help you figure it out.” “Maybe.” Walker looked at his beer. He’d had maybe two swallows. “I guess I best get going. Thanks, C.D.” “Anytime, Cordell, anytime.”

When Walker arrived home, he found Alex down in the gym working out. “Oh, hi,” he greeted her when she looked up from doing butterflies to increase the strength in her shoulder muscles. He walked over and checked the amount of resistance she had the machine set for and increased it slightly. “Hi yourself,” she panted and did ten more reps. She slowly released the paddles and stood up. “You’re home later than I thought. Did you get a break in the case?” “No, I just stopped by C.D.’s for a bit. I haven’t seen him much lately.” “Yeah, I went and had lunch with him today.” “Did you? He didn’t mention it. So how’s the workout coming?” “Fine, I’m just following the routine you made up for me.” “Good, but stop cheating. You had the machine set lighter than the chart says.” Alex shrugged, “I was afraid to push it without you here to spot me.” Walker nodded his head at her explanation and then said, “I wanted to take Ranger out before it got dark. I’ll be back in an hour or so.” “Okay, I’ll have dinner ready.” “Don’t go to any trouble, I’m not really hungry.” “No trouble,” Alex denied and watched as he pivoted and headed back up the stairs. “I guess we’re still not talking about ‘it’,” she mumbled. She returned to her workout pushing herself that much harder to overcome her frustration at her tightlipped fiancée.

The two ate dinner in relative silence that night. Alex had fixed a chef’s salad to avoid having to turn on the oven. It was another hot evening and she wore as little as possible, a pair of short shorts and a tank top with no bra. She caught Walker’s gaze drifting to her clearly outlined breasts several times. He himself wore a pair of loose shorts and a muscleman shirt. He might not be able to become fully aroused, but she didn’t suffer from the same affliction. Just looking at the muscles that bulged with each movement of his arms caused a wetness that indicated her body wanted his. When he stood and walked to the sink, taking his dishes with him, she watched his tight butt cheeks and lean leg muscles. When he turned and headed back to the table for more dishes, Alex’s tongue darted out to moisten her suddenly dry mouth. She was like a person in a desert, her body craving Walker as if he were water. She felt her nipples peak of their own accord and the closer he got, the more she wanted him. His male scent tickled her nostrils and her entire body shuddered with need. She wasn’t aware that he was watching her just as closely until he dropped the silverware back on the table jolting her out of her trance. He turned and stormed out of the room without a word.

Alex spent a quiet, lonely evening, until she decided that she might as well go to bed. Walker was in the barn and she figured that all the stalls must be spotless by now. She took a quick trip up to his bedroom and picked up his pillow cradling it. She laid her head on the pillow inhaling his scent. A few tears escaped as she held the pillow tight against her chest and she unknowingly deposited her own scent on the pillow to mingle with his. Alex spied the receiver of the baby monitor Walker used to listen for her when she was first out of the hospital. She hesitated only a moment before switching it on. She knew that he was trying to shut her out and she was determined to deny him that luxury. If she was tortured, then so should he be. She laid the receiver on the nightstand so that it was out of sight, but so that he would be able to hear her slumber. That is, if she was able to get to sleep after all the torment she’d suffered this evening. Alex headed back downstairs and took a quick shower to cool her heated body. She then turned on the ceiling fan and slipped nude between the sheets.

Walker came back in after he was certain that Alex would have gone on to bed. He knew that she liked to discuss things, but it was his body that was malfunctioning and he didn’t want to discuss it. He preferred to lick his wounds in private, he always had. The fact that he was engaged, didn’t automatically change the way he operated. He had a lot to learn about sharing himself, but that wasn’t on his mind as he stole quietly up the stairs to shower and go to bed.

Alex lay awake as Walker crept stealthily upstairs. She waited until she was certain that he had gone to bed and then she reached over and turned on the base unit of the baby monitor. She lay quietly fantasizing about making love with him until she finally fell into a restless sleep. Her mind continued her pre-sleep fantasy. In her dream, Walker was as passionate as he’d ever been. They were lying nude in the tall lush grass in the meadow, making love as if there were no tomorrow.  Alex twisted and turned as his hands played over her body, bringing her nerve endings to tingling life. The cool sheets stroked her heated skin and she moaned in need of the completion only Walker could bring her.

In her dream, Walker moved over her, sliding between her legs... and she cried out as he entered her.  Her cries of passion could be heard over the monitor and Walker's subconscious mind was bombarded not only by the passionate sounds coming from the monitor, but also by the scent of Alex that clung to his pillow. He heard her moans and pleas as if she was right there with him. Her whispered, “Walker…” cut straight to his heart as his dreams twisted and turned flipping between erotic and devastatingly sad as she was meeting him thrust for thrust one moment and lying still and lifeless in his arms the next. As Alex cried out in ecstasy over the monitor, Walker sat up in the bed drenched in sweat. He looked down to see that he was indeed aroused. He considered going down to join her in the guest bedroom, but even as the thought entered his mind, his body betrayed him and he knew that he would not be able to satisfy either of them.

Alex awoke from the dream that had brought her to orgasm. She lay in bed panting as she regained her senses and replayed the dream in her mind. She’d had erotic dreams in the past, but had always awoken to find that Walker was lying next to her, touching her intimately. This time, she was alone and still, just the thought of making love to him had taken her all the way to orgasm. She craved him like an addict who had gone too long without a drug. She needed him. If he never again could make love to her, she would settle for what she could have, but the passion they shared had a life force all its own and she didn’t believe that it had died. There had to be an answer and she was determined to find it. She had to.

Walker’s dream had done more than wake him. It had transmitted itself to the world of spirits that White Eagle dwelled in. His spirit called out to the tribal elder and begged for help and healing. White Eagle began his journey before daybreak. He would not go to Washo; instead he would go to the woman Washo’s spirit cried for. To heal Washo would require a linking of his spirit with hers. White Eagle took with him the supplies he would need to guide these two injured spirits back together.

The next day, Walker left before Alex could even begin to awaken. He was determined to avoid seeing her until he could have some time to process the dream he’d had the night before. He went in to work and was the first to arrive, but spent the time going over all the files related to the bank robberies and piecing together a string of subtle clues that developed into a major break in the case. By the time his partner came in to work, Walker was ready to hit the road. He filled Trivette in on the way to capturing the elusive criminals.

Alex spent a restless morning around the house and could not settle on any one task. She finally gave up and packed herself a lunch and went out to saddle Angel. She hadn’t ridden since the shooting and she didn’t know that her doctor would approve, but she needed to ride with the wind blowing away all of her worries. Angel was more than willing to accommodate her and Alex lay low on her neck as she galloped over the vast land that comprised Walker’s ranch. Alex found herself in one of the most remote spots on the ranch. She’d been there only once before with Walker, but it was the perfect place to spend a hot summer day. She untacked Angel and left her with only a halter and lead line to graze and meander into the stream as she chose. Angel was trained to remain ground tied near Alex and so there was no fear that she would bolt and leave Alex with a long hike back to the ranch.

After removing her clothes, she took a dip in the cool water of the stream. She then ate her lunch and lay on the saddle pad enjoying the peaceful surroundings. She woke up from a nap two hours later and began to dress and pack up to go. When she called Angel over, the horse did not immediately respond. Alex began walking over the small hill that bordered the secluded spot she had spent the day in. As she crested the hill, she saw a man sitting on a blanket. Her horse stood next to him as if leading Alex to him. Alex’s initial fear at being out all alone with a strange man, disintegrated as she recognized White Eagle. The few times she’d met him; she had learned that he was completely trustworthy.

“Hello White Eagle, what brings you out here today?” she questioned politely. “The spirits tell me that Washo is in need of help.” Alex smiled and shook her head, not even trying to explain how this man knew the things he knew. “Yes, he’s been troubled,” she agreed. “His spirit is in hiding and he refuses to let it out to see that the danger has passed.” “I don’t understand. Walker is the bravest man I know. He doesn’t hide from anything.” “Yes, he hides from love, from commitment, from all the pain his emotions can bring him.” “But he asked me to marry him. He said that he loved me and he committed his life to me.” “Words. His true spirit has committed nothing and denies the love he feels for you.” “Why? Is it because I was shot?” “He remembers loving another. When she was taken from him, he came to me unable to confront his pain. Now, you have stolen his heart and you too were nearly taken. He’s afraid of feeling that pain, that loss, a second time. His dream world has melded the memories together so that you and his first love have become one. They must be separated before he can share himself with you.” “You mean physically?” White Eagle shook his head. “The physical sharing is merely a representation of the sharing of spirits. Your spirit is his mate. He knows this and yet he denies it. He has allowed fear to overcome his love. Without you, he is not complete and until he confronts his fears and faces them, he will not be able to join with you.”

Alex wasn’t sure how much of what White Eagle said had to do with the world of spirits he believed in and the physical act that she and Walker were denied. Did White Eagle know that he had been rendered impotent? Did he care about such things or was this merely a journey to help the tortured soul of a much-loved son? Alex remembered the stories Lucas had shared with her after his trip to the reservation. He had told her how White Eagle had helped him face his fears and fight them so that he no longer was plagued by nightmares. Alex didn’t know if this was the answer to the problems she and Walker were currently having, but she was willing to follow the tribal elder’s suggestions. She was desperate.

“What can I do?” she asked White Eagle. “You must bring him to the reservation. There he can focus on what is causing him to be afraid. Here, he has too many things to hide behind. He has his work, his friends, his ranch. He must leave these things.” “I don’t know if I can get him to go with me. He is barely speaking to me and he certainly doesn’t want to be alone with me.” White Eagle nodded. “I have brought herbs to make a powerful tea. This tea will cause him to fall into a deep sleep. I will help you to put him in his truck and take you to a place where I will leave the two of you. You will be three days walk from any person. I will leave you with enough supplies for one week. At the end of that time, I will return and counsel Washo. Are you willing to do this?”

Alex had to really think about what White Eagle was asking her. In essence, he was asking her to kidnap Walker and take him into the wilderness for a week. Would Walker ever forgive her? She thought about it for several minutes before giving White Eagle her carefully considered answer. “I will do as you ask, but I need a day to make arrangements. If Walker and I suddenly disappear, there are people who will worry. I need to take a few people into my confidence for this to work.” White Eagle looked into the eyes of this woman Walker had chosen. He sat gazing into the bright sky blue of her eyes and decided that Washo had chosen well. “I will remain here until sundown tomorrow. I will come to you then.” Alex nodded her agreement and then took the bag of herbs from White Eagle and led Angel back to her makeshift camp to saddle and ride back to the ranch.

When Walker came in that evening, Alex tried one more time to talk to him. He was even less willing to speak to her than the previous night. “Why aren’t you in the gym doing your exercises?” he asked in a stern voice. “I’m taking a day off,” she answered. She didn’t tell him that she’d ridden for hours and could barely move as a result. “Alex, this isn’t one of those things that you do when you feel like it. Don’t you want to get well?” “Don’t you?” “What the hell is that supposed to mean?” “You know what it means Walker. There’s something wrong. You’re so affected by what happened to me that it’s manifesting itself physically. You’re impotent and you’re afraid to face it. You won’t even talk about it.” “And you’re the expert?” “No, I’m no expert, but what else would you attribute it to? Have I suddenly lost my appeal? Am I no longer attractive to you?” she taunted. Alex watched as the muscle in his jaw clenched and released. He was furious, but she wasn’t sure how he’d react. She’d never seen him so angry, at least, not at her. He took several deep breaths to calm himself and then he said to her in a deadly calm voice, “I am going to go out for a ride. Don’t expect me back anytime soon.” With that he turned and exited the room.

The next day, Alex waited in her room until she was certain that Walker had left. Now she had to enlist the aid of her friends. She knew they would help; they were Walker’s friends too. First she called C.D. and filled him in on the plan. She left out key details, but she told him that she was taking Walker away on a surprise vacation and asked if he would help look after the ranch. He readily agreed and told her he thought it was a great idea. Next, she rang Jimmy on his cell phone before he got to work. Jimmy told her that he and Walker had arrested the prime suspects in the bank robbery case they were working on the day before. He was surprised Walker hadn’t filled her in, but he knew better than to ask too many questions. He assured Alex that he could handle the wrap up of the case and anything else that came up, if she and Walker took a week’s vacation. He didn’t know how she was going to talk him into a week, but he wished her luck.

Alex made an appointment to see her doctor on that day instead of waiting until the next Monday. It was Friday and he was busy, but she had some pull and managed to get it. After examining her, he agreed that she could return to work a week from Monday. Alex thanked him and then went to see Captain Price, Walker’s direct supervisor. Again, Alex had quite a bit of pull with the Captain. He admired her for the work she did in the DA’s office and he thought that Ranger Walker was a hell of a lucky man to have her as his fiancée. He didn’t tell her that, but when she told him that she would be returning to work in just over a week’s time and wanted to spend time with Walker before that happened, he readily agreed. No one who knew him would ever dare call Captain Price a ‘softy,’ but he did have a romantic side. He knew that Walker and Alex had been through hell and back and he thought that it would be best for Walker to take the time off. He’d seen what had happened to him after Ellen’s death and he was eternally grateful that he hadn’t had to witness that tragedy again with Alex.

Alex then went to lunch with Josie who had found a property she thought might fit the plans that she and Alex had been hatching. The real estate agent took Alex through the house and Alex fell in love with it and made an offer. She put her condo up as collateral and decided she’d hit her father up for a loan if the bid were accepted. She explained that she would be out of communication for a week and promised to return a week from Monday to close the deal if the sellers accepted her offer.

After returning to the ranch, Alex met White Eagle and together they packed for the trip into the wilderness. White Eagle was a minimalist and limited what Alex wanted to take, but she managed to squeeze in a few extra things when he wasn’t looking. They put everything into the shed where Walker kept the lawnmower and then White Eagle faded into the shadows while she waited for Walker to return home. She was nervous and went down to the gym to work out while she waited for him.

She was on her hands and knees doing leg thrusts when he came down the stairs. He stood and watched, enjoying the view of her rounded backside in the tight latex workout pants she wore. When she finished and stretched out on the mat so that her arms were in front of her as she stretched her shoulders, Walker straddled her body and gently applied pressure, increasing the stretch. Nothing was said, but he continued to help her work her upper back and shoulder muscles and then massaged them. She left to go shower, knowing it would be her last for a week.

The conversation over dinner was limited to talk about the case he and Trivette had wrapped up. No mention was made of the disagreement of the day before. After Walker went up to shower and Alex did dishes, she heard the television switch on and went to investigate. Walker had stretched out on the couch in a tired pose and was watching the news. Alex went back into the kitchen and brewed the herbal tea White Eagle had brought. She made herself a cup of Earl Grey and brought a cup of the special brew out to Walker. “I made some herb tea, I thought it would help you sleep.” Walker looked suspicious for a minute, but when she didn’t pursue the conversation about his lack of sleep, he accepted the cup and sipped its contents. Forty-five minutes later, Walker was stretched out on the couch snoring softly. Alex had slipped out and alerted White Eagle who had loaded the gear in the back of the Ram.

“How are we ever going to get him in the truck?” she asked. “He will be able to walk, we will merely need to guide him.” White Eagle was right. Walker responded to prompts to stand and with Alex on one side and White Eagle on the other, they got him loaded into the passenger side of the Ram. Alex went back to the house to lock up and then she climbed into the back of the Ram. White Eagle insisted on driving so that she too could rest.

Hours later, Alex woke up when the Ram came to a stop. She got out and helped White Eagle to set up the tent and camping gear that she’d convinced him she needed. There was only one double sleeping bag. If Walker wanted to sleep alone, he was going to have to sleep outdoors on the hard ground, not that he wouldn’t. White Eagle then got busy building a sweat lodge. He made a frame of branches tied together and piled animal skins over it to keep in the heat. He then piled rocks and kindling ready to start a fire and put a pouch of herbs on the ground. After everything was set, White Eagle helped Alex to get Walker out of the Ram and they guided him to the sleeping bag where they let him lay on top of it. The air was warm and even in the wee hours of the morning; covers weren’t necessary. White Eagle then said a prayer over Walker and Alex and left her wishing her the best. He drove the Ram away from the site and Alex knew that come what may, she and Walker would be spending a week alone together. She hoped that he wasn’t too angry in the morning when he woke. She went into the tent and stretched out next to him and fell asleep.

Walker woke slowly the next morning. His head ached and his mouth felt dry, but his most urgent need was for the bathroom. He turned over to get out of bed and found a body lying next to him. He wrinkled his brow in consternation and then realized it was Alex. He slid out of the tent quietly and walked out away from the campsite to relieve himself.

After taking care of his most urgent need, he headed back toward the campsite and then stood there realizing that he didn’t know where he was or how he had gotten there. He instantly went into Ranger mode and scanned the area. Tire tracks led to and from the remote spot and he recognized the tread. It had been his truck. The gear was also his and Alex was sleeping peacefully, but didn’t seem to be drugged or anything. He must have been though, he decided. There was no way he could have gotten all the way out here without waking up unless he had been. He thought a bit more and realized that the last thing he remembered was drinking some herbal tea Alex had given him. His eyes squinted as he pieced together the puzzle of who was responsible for this particular adventure and realized that she was blond, blue-eyed and sleeping on his sleeping bag.

Walker walked around the perimeter of the campsite and took in the other features. A sweat lodge had been expertly constructed. They were close enough to a river that water would not be a problem. They were definitely in the badlands and judging by the vista, they were far out in it. The person who had chosen this spot had done so wisely. There would be plenty to hunt, fish and trap for food, water to drink and bathe in, but not a soul in sight. Trivette and C.D. were neither one capable of the level of experience and expertise that had gone into setting this up. Not to mention that they knew next to nothing about herbs. As much as he hated to come to the conclusion, he was left with no choice. White Eagle had conspired with Alex to get him out into the wilderness where he could no longer run and hide from her. Now he was mad.

The sun had risen high into the sky before Alex stirred. She stretched and felt a twinge in her back between her shoulders. She hadn’t thought about what sleeping on the ground was going to do to her muscles. She rolled over cautiously and peeked out from under the tent flap to see if Walker was around. She let out a shriek as she stared into the eyes of a rattlesnake. It took a few moments to process that the snake was dead. It had obviously been purposefully placed so that she would see it upon waking. Oh, Walker was mad!

Walker had to clench his jaw to prevent the grin that threatened. He wasn’t about to show any kindness to Alex. She would learn not to mess with him. Especially on his turf! He watched as she climbed out of the tent, careful not to go anywhere near the dead snake. She was the picture of guilt and it looked as if it was just sinking in that she was in for some major payback.

Alex could tell that Walker was livid without even looking at him. The vibes were emanating from his body. She briefly considered playing ‘innocent’, but decided she wasn’t that good of an actress. Besides, he was too good of a detective not to know that she was behind this whole escapade. “Morning,” she mumbled as she gathered her courage to try and brazen it out. “Hardly, it’s close to noon, look at the sun.” Alex flinched as she bent her neck back to see the sun high in the sky. He was right; she’d slept in. Of course, she’d had a pretty adventurous night. Chancing a peek at his face, she didn’t think he’d be too sympathetic right now.

Alex headed off toward a rise that would offer her some privacy to relieve herself. The terrain was dry and dusty. It was just shy of being a desert. The river had some sparse vegetation around it, but it was not hospitable land. A person who did not know how to survive in this type of terrain would not last long. She’d brought plenty of food and drinking water, but she would still need to rely on Walker’s skill and knowledge to make it through the week. For the first time, she considered the fact that she had put herself at a disadvantage. Oh, why hadn’t she thought of this sooner? Damn White Eagle and his bright ideas!

When Alex returned to the campsite, Walker had the skinned rattler cooking over the campfire. Alex’s face wrinkled and she said, “I brought eggs and bacon we can cook. We need to use it while it’s still fresh anyway.” “Oh, I got rid of all that.” “You what?” “I got rid of it. Judging by all of the effort you went to, you wanted us to enjoy a trip to the badlands. I figured you should get the full effect. I don’t normally haul in a tent and sleeping bag either, but I guess those items can stay. Other than the sweat lodge, this is it.” “You got rid of everything?! The drinking water? The knapsack?” “Yes Alex, it’s all gone.” “God Walker, not the knapsack!” “’Fraid so.” “And you didn’t think that there just may be something in there that I truly need?” “People have lived out here without whatever you brought in that bag for generations.” “Had they been shot recently?” Walker’s head came up with a jerk and he looked straight at her. “What are you talking about?” “It doesn’t much matter now does it?” she asked and then stormed off, away from him before he could see the tears in her eyes or hear them in her voice.

She headed downriver staying near the bank. She took deep breaths trying to get herself under control. Who was she kidding? She was still an emotional wreck. All the things she’d endured in recent months culminated in that one moment and the tears began to course down her cheeks in rivers. After she was a good mile from the campsite, she sat on the bank and hugged her knees to her chest. Her forehead rested on her knees as she sobbed bone-rattling sobs. She’d nearly died. All of her dreams had come so close to vanishing. Then she’d endured a long painful recovery, only to find that Walker, her rock, was pushing her away. Alex’s body was racked with sobs that she was unable to stem. It was rare that she allowed herself to wallow in self-pity, but she needed a good cry and it washed away a great deal of excess emotion that had been bottling up.

When she finally calmed enough to stop sobbing, she headed on down to the river. Stripping off her clothes, she stepped into the water and headed to the middle where the water was only waist high. She cleansed her face and floated for a brief time. After she climbed back out, she washed out her clothes and laid them on the rocks to dry. They were made of lightweight summertime material, so they would dry quickly. She sat in the sun and allowed it to beat down on her in all its intensity. She knew that it wasn’t wise, especially since she hadn’t had anything to eat or drink and had on no sunscreen or hat, but she decided that she didn’t care. She was filled with an aching sadness.

Somehow, when she was still in Dallas, she had managed to avoid too much self-reflection. She had wanted to turn what had happened to her into a positive outcome, so whenever she wasn’t working to get well, she was meeting with Josie to plan a community center to meet the needs of victims of crimes. She hadn’t brought Walker into her confidence as yet, but the time spent on envisioning a center that served the needs of victims of domestic abuse and other violent crimes had helped her through a difficult time. Her entire adult life had been dedicated to her career and she suddenly had far too much free time on her hands. Finding the outlet had kept her sane, but it had also helped her to bury her fears and pain. She suspected that White Eagle had tricked her as much as he had tricked Walker.

Alex had been off the pain pills for over a week, but she still needed to take prescription strength Motrin every once in awhile. After sleeping on the ground overnight, she decided that she was going to need them. She also had her birth control pills in that knapsack, although based on Walker’s current mood, it wouldn’t matter that those were gone. Alex stretched out her shoulder muscles and then dressed in her clothes and headed back to camp.

Walker had felt a pang of guilt when she stormed off. He knew that she was upset and he had a feeling that it had to do with a lot more than her knapsack. He wondered what it was that she had in there that she was so concerned with. He knew that she’d stopped taking her prescription pain medication, but he hadn’t considered that there might be something else in there that she truly needed. When Alex hadn’t returned in over an hour, he headed downstream to find her. She hadn’t eaten anything and she could always drink from the river, but the water should be boiled first. When he saw her sitting on the bank, nude, he became angry again. It wasn’t rational, but he felt as if she was flaunting her body as if to rub his face in the fact that he couldn’t make love to her. He had considered retrieving her knapsack from where he’d hurled it into a rocky ravine, but with his anger back in force, he decided against the kindness.

Walker was in camp cleaning a rabbit he had trapped for dinner. Alex didn’t say anything to him, but instead headed to the tent and ducked under the flap. She fell into a fitful sleep and woke realizing that she was quite sunburned. Her sunscreen and hat had also been in the knapsack. Alex pulled up the tent sides to try and take advantage of any breeze she could. She went to the river and dipped a pail into the water, bringing it back up to the campfire. After gathering enough wood to heat the water, she lit the fire and boiled it. She rummaged through the pile of goods that Walker hadn’t gotten rid of and found some coffee. Pouring the water over the instant flakes, she waited until it cooled sufficiently to drink it. It was the first liquid she’d had all day. Between the heat and the sunburn, she was rapidly becoming dehydrated. She decided that the tears she’d shed hadn’t helped either. She also had a headache that was rapidly becoming a migraine. Thinking about it, she knew that she’d set herself up for one. She had let herself get dehydrated, she hadn’t protected herself from the sun and she hadn’t had any caffeine or food. After she finished drinking the coffee, she lay back down on the sleeping bag and dozed.

Walker had been out scouting the area and when he returned, he saw that she had at least fixed herself some coffee. He looked at her asleep under the cover of the tent and saw that her face looked very red. Taking in her blond hair, he cursed himself for not insisting she wear a hat when she stormed off. Walker looked around at the area and realized that there wasn’t a hat for Alex. He knew her well enough to know that she would have brought one. She would have also brought sunscreen. The guilt was back. They were probably in her knapsack. He also hadn’t thought about the fact that she was a woman and that there might be ‘supplies’ that she needed. He had lost track of her cycle and wondered if she was going to need anything in the next few days. He warred with himself, but under the anger was a deep abiding love for Alex. He couldn’t stand to see her suffer. He finally headed back out to the ravine where he’d thrown the knapsack and food items. He had kept the drinking water, but submerged it under a rocky outcropping in the river to keep it cool. Alex hadn’t seen it when she got her water for coffee. He’d kept some carrots and potatoes and a few other staples, but had gotten rid of anything he felt was extraneous. If Alex had allowed White Eagle to pack for them, the things that Walker had dumped would have never been at the campsite to begin with.

It was nearing dusk when Walker reached the ravine and he looked down to see that coyotes had found the eggs and bacon she’d brought. She hadn’t brought much in the way of fresh meats, knowing it would spoil, but she had thought they could eat it the first day at least. Walker climbed down to the outcrop where the knapsack had landed. The coyotes were far more afraid of him than he was of them, so they backed off enough for him to retrieve the bag and climb back up the slippery incline. He was tempted to look into the bag, but didn’t. He respected Alex’s privacy and would never invade it without just cause.

When Walker returned to the campground, it was pitch black. He was surprised that Alex hadn’t at least started a fire. He set about getting a fire going and put in the rabbit meat, potatoes, onions and carrots to cook in some water. He then went to find out why Alex had not emerged from the tent. When he bent down to softly call her name, she moaned in response. Walker was instantly alert, he knew that sound; it was one of pain. “Alex, what is it?” Alex didn’t respond and Walker became even more worried. “Alex?” He reached out and gently shook her shoulder. This time, Alex’s cry of pain was clear and distinct. “Don’t touch me,” she whispered harshly. “What is it? What’s wrong?” “Go away,” she mumbled and fell silent. “Alex, I’m not going anywhere, tell me what’s wrong.” “My head,” she said. Walker had seen her get a migraine only twice before. Both times she had been under a great deal of stress and had been knocked completely off her feet for a full day. “Do you have anything with you to take?” he asked. “Not anymore,” she mumbled. He recognized the slurred speech. When she was having a migraine, even the effort to move her mouth to form words seemed too much.

Walker decided that he had just cause and he opened the knapsack. He laid the items out next to the fire so that he could see what was in it. There were a couple changes of clothes, a hat, bug repellent, sunscreen, moisturizer, a first aid kit, and a small cosmetics case. He opened the case and found a bottle of pills. Reading the label, he saw that it was Motrin. He also saw her birth control pills. Walker opened the lid and saw that the pill for that day was still in its chamber. He didn’t find any supplies and knew that if she stopped taking her pill mid-cycle, that she would begin menstruating. He looked at the pack again and saw that she was nearly two weeks away from her next period. No wonder she hadn’t packed any feminine hygiene supplies. Walker’s mouth quirked slightly at the realization that he knew all of that. He’d learned a lot since he’d been with Alex. The mysteries of a woman’s body had been solved for him by her forthright honesty on the subject. Ellen had kept it all so secretive that although he knew the basic facts; the little details had been hidden from him until Alex.

Walker popped the pill from its chamber and shook out two of the Motrin tablets. He retrieved Alex’s cup and went down to fill it with the cool drinking water. He also took the bandana he had worn on his own head to protect it from the sun and wet it in the river. Returning to the tent, he urged her to sit up enough to take the pills and drink down the water. He insisted that she finish the water before he let her lay back down. Then he applied the cool compress to her forehead. Going back to the knapsack, he found a cooling spray for sunburns. He sprayed her neck, shoulders and back. He then applied some of the moisturizer to her face. Alex sighed in relief and lay back on the sleeping bag. Walker went back to the campfire and continued cooking his rabbit stew. When it was cooked through, he dished out a bowlful and cooled it and ate it. He then scooped out some broth and mashed one of the soft carrots up into it. He returned to the tent to spoon-feed it to Alex. She wasn’t hungry and it took a great deal of coaxing and cajoling, but he finally got it down her. Walker put everything away and stretched out next to Alex to sleep.

Alex awoke the next morning feeling drained, but her head no longer ached. Her shoulders were another story. She quietly let herself out of the tent and went to take care of her morning ablutions. Instead of walking away from the camp to bathe in the river, she stripped off and bathed right there. She also spotted the plastic water jugs and went over and helped herself to a long refreshing drink. That was the sight Walker was greeted with. Alex standing in the middle of the river, her body exposed from the waist up. She held the water jug in both hands and her head was tipped back with her hair streaming water behind her. Her eyes were closed as she poured the liquid down her parched throat. Walker had to swallow hard to dislodge the lump that threatened to block his own throat.

When Alex had drunk her fill, she replaced the lid and brought the jug up to the campfire. Her clothes had been washed out and lay on rocks. She went to her knapsack and took out the moisturizer and applied it liberally to all the tender spots. She then followed this up with sunscreen. Alex combed out her wet hair and pulled on khaki colored shorts and a camouflage top. She ran her fingers through her hair to dry it and then put on the khaki colored bush hat that completed the outfit. ‘Only Alex could look as if she was posing for pictures for a magazine layout in the middle of the badlands’, Walker decided. He shook his head in wonder at the lady he loved and headed over to start the fire. After heating up the stew, he took the water jug from her and filled the kettle with it to heat water for coffee.

They ate their morning meal in silence and the atmosphere was strained. Both knew an apology was in order, but neither knew how to start. Alex finished her food and said, “I’m going for a walk.” Walker looked up at her, “you want company?” She shook her head, causing a grimace when her neck muscles protested. Her back was one hard knot. “No thanks, I won’t go far.” He wanted to argue, but he merely sighed and said, “be careful. There’re snakes around here.” Her expression was wry, “yeah, I know.” She turned away and headed back downstream.

Alex stripped again when she reached her spot from the day before. She had to do something about the ache in her shoulders and back. The emotional strain, the hard packed earth, the migraine, and the lack of a workout, were really starting to cause her constant pain. She slipped the sunscreen out of her shorts pocket and liberally applied it. She was lucky, she had burned slightly the day before, but it was already a honey colored tan. She tanned easily for someone so fair. She was usually a lot smarter about how much she exposed her skin to the sun. After the sunscreen was applied, she went down to the river and walked out to the middle. She lay down on her back and floated lazily, stretching her arms up and down in a gentle backstroke. After she had stretched her muscles, she flipped over onto her stomach and began to swim. The current was minimal and she swam back and forth with increasing energy. She needed to work out the kinks.

Walker was doing some working out of his own. He hiked for a while and then turned to head back to camp, collecting firewood along the way. He made several trips until he had gathered enough for several days. He didn’t know how long Alex planned for them to stay, but he was pretty sure it would be more than a day or two. He had a lot to think about. Part of him wished he’d thought of coming out here on his own. He normally did that when things got too much and he needed to rejuvenate. He would never have left Alex though, not while he thought she needed him. He also would never have invited her to join him. Maybe that was one of the things he needed to think about, he decided.

They both ended up back at the campsite near lunchtime. Alex didn’t arrive empty handed; she had caught a couple of fish with a line and hook from one of her secret pockets. Her outfit had everything a Boy Scout would carry. She placed the wood to create a fire and used the lighter to start it. She poured water into the kettle and added a handful of rice for each of them. Then, while the rice cooked, she pulled out the small knife that was attached to her belt and she cleaned the fish. She removed the kettle and set it on the sand to finish cooking the rice, off the heat. Placing the skillet over the fire, she grilled the fish in minutes. She dished out the food and handed Walker his plate. He took it with a murmured thanks and they again ate in silence.

Walker had watched Alex as she did all the things necessary to prepare a meal out in the hostile land. He had to admit that he was impressed. She had loved to campout as a kid and had some experience. The rest she learned by watching him. On their joint camping trips, he had taught her some skills, but he hadn’t realized just how much she had observed and absorbed. Her fire was as good as any he would have built and he wasn’t even sure how she’d caught the fish. After finishing the meal, Walker gathered up the dishes and took them down to the river to wash them. Alex went into the tent and lifted the flaps for air and then lay down to take a nap.

Walker spent the time boiling more water for drinking and cooking. He went over to the sweat lodge and looked inside. White Eagle had left him a pouch of the plants that would cause him to hallucinate when they were sprinkled over the fire. He knew that his ancestors believed that the hallucinations were messages from the spirits and his own experience hadn’t denied that possibility. He also knew that he had to face whatever was eating away at his soul if he was to go on with the life he had planned with Alex. He wasn’t ready yet though. He had to square things with her about this trip first. She had some explaining to do.

The rest of the day was spent in a sort of strained truce. Neither of them brought up what was on both of their minds. Dinner was another silent affair and it wasn’t until everything was cleaned up and they were sitting gazing at the stars that Alex broke the silence. “I know that it wasn’t fair to bring you out here without giving you a choice in the matter, but I was desperate.” “So desperate that you felt it was necessary to drug me and kidnap me?” “Oh please, Walker, don’t get dramatic. White Eagle gave me some tea leaves that he said would make you sleep and he drove us out here so that we could deal with what’s happened to us.” “The only thing that’s happened to me, is that you and White Eagle brought me out here without my permission.” “And the fact that I was shot and nearly died. That didn’t happen to you? ‘Cause I gotta tell you Walker; it sure felt like it happened to both of us.” Walker greeted her anger with silence. “What’s wrong? Are you still denying that my getting shot has affected you? Are you ever planning on facing it and dealing with it? Or are you going to pretend nothing is wrong? How long do you think you can pull that off for?” “Look Alex, I’m not proud of the way I acted yesterday. I’m sorry I was so mean to you, but I did have reason to be angry. I don’t like other people arranging my life for me.” “You know what? Neither do I! But for the last several weeks, Karl Storm did just that. I haven’t been able to work, I had to give up my independence and rely on you, and you no longer make love to me. I didn’t ask for any of that.”

The two sat there breathing and taking the time to cool off before more words could be said in anger. “White Eagle will be back on Saturday to pick us up. I’ll move back to my place on Sunday. As for the engagement…” Alex shrugged her shoulders, “I guess the ball is in your court.” She stood and headed toward the tent, “I’m sorry for bringing you here… More than I can say.” With that, she gathered up her knapsack and searched for her Motrin tablets. She opened the bottle and took two out and then filled her cup with water and drank them down. “Are you in pain?” Walker asked. “It doesn’t matter. It serves me right,” Alex said and headed into the tent. She changed into a long t-shirt and stretched out with her back to the tent flap.

Walker undressed and pulled on a pair of jogging shorts. He went into the tent and sat facing Alex. “It matters to me. I don’t want you to be in pain,” he said. He got no response. Alex’s throat was choked with tears and it was all she could do not to give away the fact that she was crying. She hated the weakness, but it seemed that crying was about the only thing she was good for on this trip. “Lay on your stomach,” Walker commanded. Alex hesitated, but she decided that it would be less noticeable that she’d been crying if she kept her face in the sleeping bag.

Walker rummaged through her knapsack and found the moisturizer. He tugged at the hem of her t-shirt and she lifted her belly so that he could bring it up over her head. Straddling her, he poured the cool moisturizer on her shoulders and upper back. Walker began with a gentle massage, gently kneading her bunched muscles. “My God, you’re one tight knot! No wonder you’re in pain,” he exclaimed. He worked on loosening her muscles for over an hour. It was a painful process as he dug into the sensitive tissue and broke up the knots that had formed around the scar tissue. After the knots were worked out, he changed to a soothing sensual massage. Alex’s body responded to the change almost immediately. She cursed her own traitorous body, but her breasts swelled of their own accord and the dampness that pooled in her panties made her bite her lip to stifle a moan.

Walker knew Alex’s body well and it was giving off the scent of arousal. He knew that she was ready for him. The only problem was that he wasn’t ready for her. He wanted her, there was no denying that fact, but his body wasn’t responding in a way that would satisfy either of them. Walker rolled Alex over and began kissing her sweet lips. He thrust his tongue into her mouth in a way that he couldn’t thrust into her body. His hands explored down to her panty line and his fingers dipped in to find her wet and hot. Alex’s hands explored too. She stroked and then gently clawed his chest and back. Her hands traveled down the line of hair that led down to his crotch. Before she could reach her goal though, he caught her hands and stretched them up over her head. Her breasts were forced up toward him and he tasted each in turn. He then moved down her body, kissing her stomach and on down to her panties. He lifted her hips and pulled the material away from her so that she was open to him. He then tasted her intimately and stroked his tongue over her swollen clitoris. It continued to swell and sensations shot from it all the way up through her body.

Walker sat on his haunches with her legs straddling him. He lifted her buttocks up and placed her on his thighs. He took his penis out of his shorts and rubbed the tip up and down the wet crease. Then, as she squirmed and pleaded for him to enter her, he inserted three fingers and began a thrusting tempo. Walker watched her face as it contorted with the sensations rocketing through her. Her feet were planted on either side of him and she used them to pump her hips up to meet his embedded hand. Walker pushed down onto her pelvic wall and continued to thrust with one hand while the other delicately stroked her. The tension mounted in Alex until she became completely stiff and all of the sensations bombarded her simultaneously. She lay there panting, gasping for breath as her body shuddered and contracted around his hand. She collapsed back down onto the sleeping bag.

Walker slipped her hips down off of his thighs and then he stood. He went down to the river and took a dip in the cool water. He reemerged moments later and wet a cloth that he took back to the tent. Alex continued to lie in the same position he had left her. He knelt back down and used the damp cloth to wipe the fluid from between her thighs. She gasped as the cool cloth touched her sensitive flesh, but she allowed him to clean her. Then he lay down and brought her against his chest, bringing her head to rest on its favorite pillow. He stroked her hair and soothed her so that she could barely stay awake. “Walker…” she tried to speak. “Shh… Alex, we’ll talk tomorrow.” “Promise?” “Mmm…” It wasn’t exactly an oath, but Alex was too tired to argue the point. She closed her eyes and gave in to the sleep that wanted so desperately to claim her.

Alex awoke the next morning to the early heat of the day. Walker was nowhere in sight and she continued on through the day, following a similar pattern to the one she had followed the day before. After her swim, she returned to camp with the fish she had caught and cooked them over the campfire she prepared. She was nearly finished with her meal when Walker returned. He was carrying another rabbit for dinner. He cleaned the meat and then placed it into a sealed container, added herbs he’d gathered and then floated it in the water to keep it cool. Throughout all of this, he barely acknowledged her.

Alex waited until he completed his task and cleaned up. He came to the campfire and sat across from her. Alex handed him his plate and then she sat back and waited for him to eat his meal. Walker enjoyed silence and he could sit in a crowd and not speak for hours. Despite this, he kept glancing up at Alex and looking at her as if he was waiting for her to pounce. When he finished his lunch, Alex stood and took his plate along with hers to go wash them in the river. She then went into the tent for her afternoon nap. There wasn’t much else to do in the heat of the day.

Walker was perplexed. He had avoided the campsite all morning because he thought Alex would insist on talking. Then when he finally returned, he kept waiting for her to say something, but she hadn’t. He couldn’t figure her out. Did she want to talk or not? Walker decided that he would never figure out the workings of a woman’s mind and headed down to cool off in the river.

Alex lay in the stifling heat wondering whether she should go down to the river and drown the man or wait till he returned and hit him over the head with the cast iron skillet. Not that the skillet would make a dent; he was so hardheaded! She stretched and tried to imagine that there was a breeze. It was too hot to sleep. After laying and sweating for more than half an hour, she gave up and headed to the river. Stripping off, she dove into the refreshing water and swam lazily. She was nearly asleep floating on her back when she felt a sudden tug on her leg and she was pulled under. Alex came up sputtering and looked into the smiling face of Walker. He’d turned the tables and tried to drown her! This was war!

Alex and Walker dunked each other and splashed water like two kids. They used water as ammunition and each gave as good as they got. Walker had the advantage of strength, but Alex was quick and her sunscreen made her slippery. He would grab her and she would slither through his hands and dart around him like a fish. Once, she managed to get behind him and jumped up onto his back. She wrapped her legs around his waist and her arms around his neck and clung on for dear life. Walker did several log rolls in an attempt to dislodge her, but she refused to budge. Both were completely nude and neither even noticed. They were too busy getting rid of all of their frustration.

Alex finally wavered, her stamina not up to his. She sat in the shallow water near the bank and laughed at him. Walker grinned back at her and taunted, “you give up?” “I concede the battle, but not the war!” she shouted back with spirit. “Never the war!” he agreed. He laughed again like a young boy. Alex couldn’t stop grinning; he looked like a six year old with a beard. His eyes were so mischievous and his grin as wide as his face. She loved it when he was like this. All the seriousness that filled his life vanished and she got a glimpse of the carefree boy he used to be for such a brief time. Alex splashed some water at him halfheartedly. “You play dirty, Cowboy.” “Speak for yourself, lady. You always break all the rules.” “There are no rules in water fights.” “There should be. I think your nails took off half of my skin.” “Well, I swallowed enough of this water to get dysentery.” “Let’s hope not. Being sick out here would not be fun.” “That’s the truth!”

Walker flopped down beside her and they both lay down to rest with most of their bodies in the water and their faces just out of it. “Why in the world do you come out here to think?” Alex questioned. “I mean, I’m so hot, I can’t possibly think.” “Stop talking,” he ordered. Alex just lay back and grinned. Walker didn’t mind her chatter, he was just being a brat and she knew it. Of course, if she’d tried to broach an important subject, it would have been a different story. Walker reached his hand out to clasp hers and they lay there in quiet companionship. Alex began to get very sleepy and when Walker sat up, he saw that she was dozing. He stood up and picked her up to carry her back to the tent. Alex’s eyes opened enough to register, who was carrying her, but she was tired and she closed them again and rested her head on his chest. Walker gently laid her on the sleeping bag. He stood back up and watched her sleep. His eyes trailed from her wet hair to her high cheekbones, down to the mole beside her mouth.

Alex was laying on her back with her arm flung up over her head. Walker’s eyes drifted down to her determined chin and the long sweep of her neck. Her clavicle bones stood out, but now there was some flesh covering them again. His eyes feasted on her rounded breasts. She had the most beautiful breasts he had ever seen and they fit perfectly in his hands, just threatening to spill over. His mouth opened slightly as he followed the flat stomach down to the nest of curls that covered her womanhood. Her hips that tapered into the longest most perfectly formed legs he had ever seen. He loved having those legs wrapped around him. It was probably the closest thing to heaven on earth he could imagine.

His eyes went down to look at his own body. Even with all the temptation, the visual candy, the memories, his body still had not responded. The slight hardening was laughable; at least it would have been if it weren’t so frustrating. How in the world had this happened to him? His love for Alex was the best thing that had ever happened to him and now he couldn’t share his body with her. It was time to do something about it. He decided that he would go into the sweat lodge in the morning to see if he could find out from the spirits what was causing his problem.

Walker went out to get things ready for the next morning. He would go into the sweat lodge before dawn. He carried a pail of water inside to pour over the hot rocks. He checked to make sure that there was enough wood and stacked it in preparation for the fire. Abandoning tradition, he put a matchbook next to the wood and then headed out. Walker did some meditation and practiced his karate moves. He felt more centered than he had in weeks. Making a decision to face the fear had helped.

When Alex awoke, Walker had set up the chessboard. It was one of the things that he’d thrown into the ravine, but he later retrieved it. He had had the board for many years; it was a gift from C.D. for Christmas. C.D. had decided he needed a ‘sit down’ hobby. After teaching him how to play, he had spent the interim years being beaten by Walker. Walker beat everyone C.D. knew. Alex’s arrival on the scene had assuaged C.D.’s ego when he watched her beat Walker at a game. Convinced it was a fluke, there had been a rematch and the two had played ever since, seesawing back and forth.

Alex pulled on her clothes and joined Walker for a game of chess. The two played for several hours with a few breaks to cool off in the water. In the end, Alex was the victor, but it had been a very close match and Walker was certain he would win the next one, once he was able to concentrate fully.

“Your turn to cook,” Alex told him when her stomach told her it was dinnertime. Walker built a fire and put a couple of potatoes in it. It was too late to cook the rabbit any way except fried. He got the cast iron skillet and set it on the fire to get it good and hot. He then seared the meat and removed it from the heat to slow down the rate it was cooking. Back and forth he went until he had the meat cooked through. He pulled the potatoes out with a stick and placed the meal on two plates. “It’s sort of lacking a vegetable, but it’s filling,” he offered. “Smells good,” she stated, as she got ready to dig in. “Being out here seems to have increased my appetite,” she admitted. “Water fights will do that to you,” he commented. Alex grinned at him and they ate a companionable meal.

Alex debated bringing up the taboo subject, but then, she decided to let it rest. They were getting along better than they had in days and it was nice just to be together and to be comfortable with each other. They spent the rest of the evening talking about the area they were in. Walker shared with her his knowledge of the animal and plant life. He told her stories about the people who once inhabited the barren land and had flourished there despite its hostile nature. Just before turning in, he told her that he was going to have a ‘sweat’ in the morning and asked her to respect his privacy. She agreed and secretly hoped that, in his own way, he was trying to confront the events that had occurred in their lives recently.

Lying next to each other in the tent, Walker rolled over and draped his arm over Alex as he often did in sleep. The movement triggered the dream that had been haunting him all these weeks. The loud gunshot, the cry of pain, and the body lying still next to him as he rolled to cover it with his own. Walker’s restlessness awakened Alex. She lay there disoriented for a bit as Walker cried out Ellen’s name. He twisted and turned some more and then she heard her own name leave his tortured lips. Realization dawned. He wasn’t dreaming just of her shooting, he was dreaming about losing the woman he loved, not once, but twice. This was what White Eagle had meant about his dream world melding the two incidents together.

“Walker, wake up. Walker, it’s just a dream.” It took several moments before Alex’s attempts to wake Walker had any effect. Waking in a blind panic, he reached for her and held her tightly to him. “Alex, Alex,” he cried into her hair as his hands searched her body for signs of life. “I’m here, Walker. It’s over, the nightmare is over,” she tried to reassure him. His tight grip was painful, but Alex didn’t demure as he slowly climbed out of the terrifying dream and became fully awake.

Alex waited until his breathing and heart rate slowed and he had relaxed his grip on her. “Tell me about the dream, Walker.” He shook his head in the negative, but she wasn’t going to let him off so easily. He had shut her out and denied his fears for too long. “Okay, then I’ll tell you about mine,” she said. That stopped Walker and he grew still as he listened. “My nightmare doesn’t come to me when I’m asleep, it’s with me all day, everyday. It’s a vision I have of the future and it scares me so badly that it’s all I can do to remember to breathe. I see myself walking down a church aisle. I’m all in white and you are standing at an alter waiting for me. When I stand beside you and we say our vows, the reverend asks, ‘do you promise to share the good and the bad with each other?’ You just look at him and you shake your head ‘no.’ I know then that our life together is a sham and that you only plan to share a part of yourself with me and to keep the rest hidden. The years pass and we grow more and more distant. Then I see us and we’re both old and gray. You’re sitting on one side of the porch swing and I’m on the other. We have nothing to talk about. We’ve never shared the sorrow and after all those years, we don’t know how to share the joy either. It scares me more than I can tell you, Walker.”

Walker listens to her story and knows that she is being brutally honest with him. As much as he wants to protect her, he knows that hiding away his feelings and fears only succeeds in pushing her away from him. Taking a deep breath, he says, “I’m with Ellen, walking along the lakeshore and trying to find the nerve to ask her to marry me. Suddenly, the shots ring out and we’re both hit. I roll and try to cover her body with mine, but I see her face and it’s you lying there. Then I feel the life slipping from your body and I wake up.” “It makes sense that the two events would become tangled in your dreams, there were an awful lot of parallels. You were with the woman you planned to ask to marry you and both times she was shot. The difference, Walker, is that I lived. I’m here with you, alive. Pushing me away is the surest way I know to kill our love. Please Walker, I know how frightening seeing me shot was. I remember reaching for you and the only thing I could think of was that I would never again hear your voice or see your face. I remember regretting that I would never feel your arms holding me or taste your lips or smell your scent. It was the most incredibly sad moment in my entire life. It was just a small moment, but I remember vividly the despair I felt, the gut wrenching emptiness. You survived it once, Walker, god knows no man should have to survive that twice.” Walker turned to hold her tight in his arms and his face caressed hers. She felt the moistness of tears on her cheeks and wasn’t sure if they were hers or his or a combination of both.

After long minutes of silence, Walker spoke. “Alex?” “Yes?” “I love you so much. It scares the hell out of me to know that you are as important in my life as breathing. I want to marry you and have babies with you and build a life together, but part of me wants to walk away before I can set myself up for more pain.” Alex nodded, this she understood. “Allowing yourself to be vulnerable is the scariest thing in the world. It’s not easy for me either Walker. We are probably two of the most independent people in the world. We’ve both had bad things happen to us that made us even more afraid to love. I guess that’s why it’s taken us so long to get to this point in our relationship. But Walker, I’m willing to try really hard to make this work if you are.” Her promise was met with silence.

Alex felt his hand stroke through her hair and his breathing come in and out slowly. It was some time, but finally, he spoke. “Alex, I don’t have a choice. I have to work towards keeping you in my life, because without you, I don’t have a life. You are my everything and I know that things are going to be rough, but I also know that I love you enough to see it through to the end. When I push you away, please push back. Just like you did this time, kidnapping me and bringing me here. My God woman, you’ve got guts. There are probably only a handful of men in this world who would dare do what you did and none crazy enough to stick around while I woke up and figured it out.” “I did think about pretending that I was an innocent pawn in all of this,” she confessed. She felt his smile against her temple. “Alex, I wish I could promise you a happy ever after, but I can’t. I’ve learned some bad habits over the years and it’s lucky you’re so tenacious, because you’re going to have to be. Please always love me enough to make me face up to the things that are coming between us.” “That’s the easy part, Walker. I can’t help but love you that much.” “Good,” he answered simply. And with that said, the two drifted into a restful sleep until just before dawn. Walker crept out of the tent and headed for the sweat lodge.

After lighting the fire and chanting the ceremonial chants, Walker added the dried plants that White Eagle had left in the small leather pouch. The smoke filled the tent and Walker inhaled its sweet odor. Breathing in and out and centering himself, he allowed his mind to open and his spirit to wander.

There was a deer sipping water from a river. The brightly colored doe looked up nervously as she heard a noise. Scanning the area with her large eyes, she dipped her head back down as if she had no choice; the water was more vital to her existence than the need to run from the unknown foe. Suddenly, a shot rang out and the doe was felled. Lying on her side with a large gaping wound, she still leaned out her long tongue and lapped at the cool waters. Walker wanted to shout at her to run into the forest, but he knew that nothing would force her to leave the river; it was the life force that kept her going.

The scene changed to an eagle soaring on the wind currents of a beautiful blue sky. It sailed alone, reveling in its freedom. There were other birds in the sky, but none attracted it. Finally, tired from its journey, it spied a river. Circling overhead, watching for a safe place to land, it finally settled on a large boulder. Its eyes continuously scanned the area, never at rest. Suddenly, it spied the doe lying at the rivers edge, lapping the water. She was weak, there was no more strength in her, and yet, she continued to try and drink the water. The eagle took to the sky and circled again looking for danger. Again, it returned to the boulder.

The hunter appeared to retrieve his kill, but the eagle swooped at him with talons drawn. The hunter finally gave up and fled. Next came a mountain lion, deciding it had lucked into an easy meal. The eagle once again flew at the stalker until it too gave up and left. This continued through several more scenes and each time, the eagle would protect the injured doe.

Dusk fell and the doe remained prone. Unable to reach the water, it gave into the despair that was draining away all of its life. The eagle cried out in anguish as it took to the sky to rail at the senseless loss of life. Each of the animals that had come to eat the injured doe could have given its life and its death meaning. Now, it was going to die with no one to give it that gift. Finally, the eagle returned to the water’s edge. It reached its huge beak into the water and pulled up a few drops. Going to the doe, it dripped the drops onto her mouth. The doe’s tongue emerged to lick the life giving fluid. Again and again this process was repeated, until by morning, the doe was able to stand weakly and drink the water itself. The eagle stood on the boulder, maintaining its vigil, but now it too knew the river’s life giving power.

A vision of Uncle Ray appeared before Walker’s eyes. “Nephew, do you understand the meaning of the vision you have been shown?” “I know that the doe is Alex and I am the eagle, but I do not understand the river. What does it signify?” “Love, nephew. The river is love. Alex knows that love is the answer to everything. She knows that no matter the hurt, to continue to love is the answer. She too has suffered great loss, but she has not lost sight of that one truth. You my lone eagle have. When you see something hurt and vulnerable, you try to protect it. What you don’t see is that loving it gives it the strength and courage to protect itself. You are not responsible for keeping Alex safe. She is. You are merely responsible for loving her. And when she is too weak to feel that love, then it is up to you to bring it to her and envelope her in it. That is the key to your happiness. Alex’s nightmare need not come true, but you must change to ensure that it doesn’t. Like the eagle in the vision, you must bring the love to her when she can no longer reach out for it.”

Walker sat for some time more before finally speaking. “I understand, Uncle. I have chased away many opportunities for Alex to find happiness and fulfillment. Now it is my responsibility to give her the one thing she wants most, the one thing that she feels gives her life meaning, my love.” “Nephew, this woman has touched you in a way that I feared no woman would. Go to her and give her all the love that is contained in your heart and your body. Bring her the children that will complete the cycle of your love.” Even in the trancelike state Walker was in, he found humor in the words. “Uncle Ray, you have been trying for years to get me to give you grandkids. Ease up already.” “Washo, I am too close now to ever ease up.” Uncle Ray’s visage smiled warmly at his nephew as they shared the moment and then he slowly faded.

Alex was nearly frantic with worry. She didn’t know exactly what time Walker had entered the sweat lodge, but it was now a few minutes past eleven and she had to forcibly restrain herself from entering. She had promised to respect his privacy and allow him the opportunity to face his fears alone, but how long could a man stay in there before he suffered from heat stroke? It was hot enough outside, with the added heat and steam from the fire… She looked at her watch again. She had decided to wait until noon before barging in, but her resolve was weakening and she pushed the time up to 11:30. Reconsidering this deadline, she was relieved beyond belief when Walker emerged from the sweat lodge on his hands and knees. He crawled just beyond the animal skin flap and collapsed onto the ground.

Alex rushed over to him and found that he was barely conscious. She raced back to the river and got a jug of cool drinking water. She dripped some into his mouth and waited a few minutes. She repeated this process over and over again until his eyes opened and gazed into hers. “Walker, you scared me. Don’t ever do that again, please.” He smiled a weak smile and then in a hoarse whisper, asked, “Will you help me to the river please?” Alex nodded her assent and with her help, he stood and the two stumbled down to the river’s edge. “If anyone saw us now, they would be sure that you’d had too much to drink and I was trying to sober you up,” Alex observed with a giggle. Walker gave her an answering smile and sank into the cooling water of the river. He wore only his loincloth and Alex reached to the rawhide tie and loosened it. After removing the cloth, she washed it in the river and then brought it up dripping with water to soak his head and neck. “Thank you darling, that feels so heavenly,” he murmured, struggling to remain awake.

Alex continued her ministrations, urging him to drink more water slowly, until his body was re-hydrated. When he seemed stable enough, she went back up to camp and prepared another meal of fish and rice. She had caught the fish while he was in the sweat lodge and she prepared it with the rice and edible plants that he had gathered the day before. She cooked everything together into a thick stew and brought a cup of it down to the river for him to eat. After another hour in the river, Walker was able to stand and make his way back to the tent. He stretched out on the sleeping bag pallet and fell into a deep healing sleep. Alex catnapped next to him, but woke periodically to walk back down to the river and rewet the cloths that she used to keep his head and neck cool.

It was dusk before the two woke feeling refreshed. Alex reheated left over fish stew for dinner and Walker ate with a much heartier appetite than he had earlier. “Alex, thank you for taking care of me today. I’ve rarely stayed in a sweat lodge so long and it takes a lot out of a guy.” “I was about to go in and drag you out, you had me so worried.” “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize it would be so long. The spirits had quite a lesson to teach me.” Alex sat quietly, dying to know what the lesson was, but determined not to push. “I guess you’re not interested in knowing what that lesson was, huh?” Walker teased her. “Oh… you!” she countered at a loss for words, knowing that once again he had gotten the best of her. They shared a smile and Walker leaned back against a boulder, looking at her across the campfire. The flames highlighted her face and danced on her golden hair. The reds and yellow hues reminded him of the doe. Looking into her shadowed eyes, they looked as big and brown as that of the deer’s. He couldn’t see it, but he knew that they were filled with a knowledge that he was only beginning to understand.

“In my vision, the spirits showed me how you stand by me through everything, through danger and fear, because you love me. They showed me that to you, that love is more vital than your own safety. I guess anyone who loves someone in a profession as dangerous as Law Enforcement has to have that same belief in love.” Alex looked at him puzzled. Did he accept now that she wouldn’t leave him like the young woman he had once planned to marry in his youth? Did he see that her love for him came without the price of having to give up his career? “Ellen loved me the way you do, but there was an important difference. You love me in spite of the danger; Ellen was unaware of it. She believed that she was infallible and that our future together was a certainty. You have so much more strength than I do. You love me, knowing that the love you feel may bring you heartache and yet... you continue to love me.”

Alex had a glimmer of tears shining in her eyes. He did understand. The danger to her was worth it. Any price was worth it. If they could be together and find the happiness that their love promised, she would face anything. “The spirits showed me that it isn’t my job to protect you, it’s just my job to love you.” Alex’s face burst into a huge smile. She nearly leapt over the campfire in her need to touch him. She sailed into his arms and wrapped her own arms around his neck. Burying her face into the place that God had created for her head to rest, she breathed in his scent and tasted the salt on his skin. Walker cradled her head with his hand, pressing her deeper against that place between his chin and chest.

Holding her close and reveling in the feel of her body pressed against his, he continued. “Uncle Ray paid me a visit as well.” “What did he have to say?” she asked muffled against his neck. “He said that we needed to hurry up and make him a grandfather.” Walker could feel Alex’s smile against his neck. She leaned back slightly to look into his eyes. “Is that possible?” she asked. To answer her question, he leaned down and captured her lips with his own. Kissing her deeply, he took her hand in his and guided it to his proud erection. “Oh Walker!” she murmured against his hot mouth. He chuckled at her enthusiastic response to his renewed vigor. Standing, he undressed her there by the light of the fire.

After removing all of her clothes, he stepped back and waited. Alex needed no bidding as she quickly grasped the elastic waistband of his jogging shorts and eased them over his huge erection. With the shorts in her hand, she stepped back to survey him. The firelight played over his broad chest and cut arms. His face was so strong and proud as the shadows highlighted the prominent bones and took away the softness of the flesh. She let her eyes travel down to the hard shaft that stood tall pointing toward his navel. Down her gaze went to his thighs and sinewy calves. Lastly, she surveyed his hands; those hands that could crush a nose or flit delicately over her skin with the lightest of touches. Alex smiled and tossed her hair back, as she stood as proud and straight as he. They weren’t two people who needed each other. They were two people who loved each other and chose to be weak enough to let the other into the fortress wall each had built to keep others out.

Walker held out for as long as he was able. He allowed her to survey his body and felt no embarrassment or shame. His body had one purpose, to please hers. Finally, the suspense had built beyond his ability to withstand it. He walked toward her and lifted her high into the air. His hands shifted so that they cupped her buttocks as her legs opened to surround him. He eased her down onto his hard length and without preamble or preparation; he pushed up into her depths. Alex sank down onto him, loving the sensation of him filling her millimeter-by-millimeter.

Joined together and locked, he carried her down to the river and walked to the middle where the water reached his waist and cushioned her rounded buttocks. His strong arms flexed as he lifted her up and then allowed her to sink back down onto his hard length. He repeated this motion several times, slowly and purposefully. “Now Walker, I’m ready now,” she told him. He leaned forward and their mouths intertwined. Tongues dueled and tasted. They kissed until breath became a necessity and then she released his lips and his broad shoulders to lie back so that her torso floated on the water. “I’ll try not to hurt you Alex, but I can’t wait or go slow. I need you so desperately,” he said as he began a punishing rhythm in and out of her body. The disparity of the cooling waters that buoyed her upper body and the punishing heat that their union caused lifted Alex to a plateau she had never been to before. She felt the tension coil and bring with it a deep need for release. Walker continued to pound his flesh into her and withdraw at a maddening rate. He lacked finesse and skill, he had one goal and it was his own completion, not hers.

They continued at this frantic pace until Walker finally stopped and struggled to gain breath. “I can’t…” he began. “I know, darling. You can’t get there alone, let me go with you,” she said. Her words were simple, but held a wealth of meaning. His focus changed. No longer was his need to find his own release, but to join her in hers. His movements began again, but this time, he stoked in and out of her smoothly, gliding to the deepest possible depth and touching her cervix with a light butterfly kiss. He withdrew as she clenched her muscles around him, fighting his withdrawal. Relaxing, she allowed him to once again sink down into her.

Walker’s hands left their grip on her hips and trailed up to her breasts that stood proud in the moonlight, begging for attention. He grasped the tips and rolled the hardened flesh between thumb and forefinger. Halting his thrusting motion completely, he leaned forward and tasted first one ripe bud and then the other. Alex moaned as he suckled and nipped the tender flesh. While he remained completely within her, her body gripped and released him time and again. The pleasure he gave her breasts translated itself to her pelvis and he reaped the rewards as her clenching on his shaft brought its own pleasures. His wet hands trailed down her belly and found the source of her pleasure. He touched and soothed the sensitive nub, bringing it even more fully to life. Alex twisted and moaned as he brought her untold pleasure. Her movements increased his own pleasure and without words, he knew that it was time to establish the rhythm that had previously escaped them. He stood back up and once again grasped her hips. Pushing and pulling her off and back onto his hard length, he established a tempo nearly as punishing as the previous one, but this time, they were together, both in tune with not only the goal, but the journey.

Deeper and faster he plunged until he felt her body contract and give into the spasms that wracked it. His own release was instantaneous and he felt the fluid build up and break through the dam gushing up into her reservoir. Release, glorious mind numbing release. Walker leaned forward and offered his strong shoulders for her to cling to. He stood back up, pulling her with him and carried her, still embedded in her, to the sleeping bag. Their night of passion had only just begun.

Walker laid her down on the sleeping bag and then lay on top of her, only to roll and land with her on top. Alex sat up and straddling her proud warrior and began another journey of seduction. This time, she was the guide and she would lead them to where she wanted to go. Her hands started at his shoulders and tickled down his chest and abdomen to where the two of them remained joined. She repeated the motion over and over, loving the contrast between rough chest hair and the smooth skin of his abdomen. As she felt his length increase within her, she switched to using her nails, scraping them down the same path her fingertips had followed. Walker’s hands reached up to cup her breasts and he began to knead them. Alex rocked back and forth pulling slightly off of him and then sitting back down to bury him deeply into her. “Come here,” he commanded, and she leaned forward allowing him to taste her breasts. Alex’s breasts were ultra sensitive and Walker knew that they were her weakness. He clamped down around one nipple and bit hard enough to cause her to moan out a mild complaint. He used his tongue to soothe the injured flesh and then repeated the action on her other nipple.

Alex increased the rocking motion bringing him further out and deeper in. Then she stopped and stretched out her legs to lie on top of him fully. She kissed his lips and her tongue pushed past them to delve into his mouth. She allowed her legs to slip off of his and pressed the core of her desire against him using a circular motion to stimulate the tiny nub against his pelvic bone. Using his chest to brace herself, she rose up and began to ride him as if she were in a rodeo. Walker’s hands reached down to grasp her firm buttocks in his hands and he assisted her movement, pulling her up and plunging her back down again. “Touch me,” she commanded between pants as her tongue circled her own lips, her eyes closed and her head was thrown back. She was completely immersed in the sensations their movements caused. His one hand left her buttock and his fingers stroked her tiny nub that was inflamed and begging for attention. The added friction to that most sensitive of places pushed her over the precipice and she screamed out as she free fell into oblivion. Walker was right behind her and the added sensations of his hot fluid shooting into her, extended her orgasm so that she didn’t know if there was one long one or several piled one on top of the other. Finally, she collapsed down onto him.

Hours later, Walker awoke with Alex still lying on top of his full length. Her body had shifted slightly so that he was no longer imbedded, but the two had given in to complete exhaustion and contentment. Lying there, holding her, his contentment was short lived. He rolled so that she was on the bottom and he began kissing down her body. He paid gentle attention to her bruised breasts and traveled on down to the heart of her. Using his tongue and lips, he began stimulating her and watched the emotions play on her face.

Alex was dreaming. She was lying in a field of lush grass with Walker, who was doing indescribable things to her. She felt a pressure mount and knew that there would be a release to follow. She struggled out of the bounds of sleep in time to feel him spread her legs and enter her. She watched his face take on a primal expression as he pumped into her with all of his might. Alex rolled her hips up to better accommodate him and allow him complete access. Her dream world mixed with her waking one as she gave in to the mounting pressure and felt the release take her once again to that floaty place where everything was so very right with the world.

Walker collapsed down on top of her and held her in a tight embrace. He rolled slightly so that his weight didn’t rest directly on her, but his grip never relaxed. “So much for following doctor’s orders,” Alex murmured dreamily into his ear. “Hmm?” Walker managed. “He said that I was supposed to be on top.” “Well, we can try again and do it his way this time.” Her lips tickled his ear as they curved into a smile. “I have another suggestion,” she said and proceeded to show him a position that she had decided wouldn’t cause her to injure herself. After this final release, Alex collapsed forward onto her belly, pulling him from deep within her. Walker lay down on his stomach, just to the side of her. “That still left you on the bottom,” he commented. “That’s okay, I think I’m getting better,” she decided as she drifted off to sleep.

 The next several days remained hot, but they were punctuated by the sounds of two lovers giving of themselves freely and uninhibitedly. When White Eagle drove the Ram to the place he had left his two star crossed lovers, they were packed up and waiting for him. One look at their tanned and glowing faces told him that the journey had been a successful one. “So Washo, did you find what you were seeking?” he asked. “How could I not? You left her right here with me,” he smiled at his old mentor. Whatever anger he had felt toward the man when he’d first woken to find he had been taken somewhere against his will was long gone. Alex had drained all the anger from him. The two had joined together so many times, that neither could have counted if they’d tried. Passionate lovemaking had been complimented by long heart to heart talks and both decided that their engagement didn’t signal the end of the task of learning to trust and commit, but only the beginning. Alex agreed that they would hold off setting a wedding date for several months as they learned to adjust to the new relationship they were entering into.

Back at the ranch, Alex spent the rest of the weekend packing her things and preparing to return to her condo. They lay together in his big bed Sunday night and discussed the future. “Alex, are you sure you want to go back to your apartment? Can’t you stay here?” “No Walker, I’m not going to live with you until after we get married. It may seem old fashioned, especially since we’re lovers…” Walker ran his bare leg up over hers to punctuate that statement, “but I still believe that two people should marry before setting up house together. I want our children to be born here and to grow up here. I don’t ever want to have to explain that I lived here before we married.” “Why, oh why did I have to fall in love with an old fashioned gal?” Walker crooned in a country twang. “If you keep singing, I’ll never move in,” she threatened. Walker’s chest rumbled with his deep laughter and the conversation ended with them resuming their ‘physical activities.’

Monday morning, Alex drove her car with her belongings into work. She had left enough of her things at Walker’s ranch for her weekend visits, but she had accumulated more than she had realized in the weeks she stayed with him. Getting back to work seemed odd. She had person after person approach her to welcome her back, but she didn’t have any ongoing cases and it was hard to settle.

Later that morning, she found herself standing at the window gazing out. Her thoughts drifted from the recent events with Walker to her plans for the HOPE Center. She still hadn’t told him about them. She needed to, the realtor had called and her offer on the property she and Josie had decided on had been accepted. Now she just needed to get the money together for the down payment. She couldn’t quite swing it herself, not with her recent purchase of her condo. She had decided to go to Gordon for the money. He had told her in the past that he wanted to help her financially, but she’d turned him down. She was proud and independent and he accepted that. This was different though. This would be accepting money, not for herself, but for a charity that she wanted to establish to help others who had suffered from violent crimes. She had to make something positive come from what had happened to her. She just had to.

As these thoughts whirled through her mind, she didn’t hear Walker enter the room, coming to check up on her. He knew that her first day back would be a challenge and he just had to give her any extra support that she might need. That was what was so great about their relationship. The way they helped each other and were always there for one another. It was a reciprocal relationship and he intended to hold up his end.

He was surprised that she hadn’t heard him enter. He wasn’t in stealth mode, because he knew she hated being startled. He let the door swing shut behind him with a quiet slam, but she didn’t seem to hear it. He approached her and wrapped his arms around her waist from behind, clasping them together at her belly. “Penny for you thoughts,” he murmured into her ear. Alex’s face lit up. Her whole world lit up when Walker was near. She turned in his arms to face him, “hi,” she said with a knowing smile. She had expected this visit. She knew he was worried about her going back to work.

She paused before answering him. It was the perfect opening to tell him her plans. “I was just thinking about when I was lying in that hospital bed. That I need to do something more with my life.” “Like what?” “Like give something back. All I do is put people behind bars. I mean, what about the victims? What about all the people that really need help and they have no way of getting it?” “What is it you want to do?” Alex took a deep breath and said her dream aloud for the first time to someone besides Josie who had been her coconspirator. “I want to open up a non-profit center for the needy. Legal Aid, daycare, job placement…” “Do you plan on quitting the DA’s office?” “No, I don’t want to quit. I just want to do more.” She looked deep into his eyes to get his true reaction to her plan. Walker’s lips formed the beginnings of a smile. “Well, I think, if you want to do more, then you should do more.” Alex laughed as she leaned in for a kiss. “I knew I’d have your support,” she said as her hands cupped the back of his neck and she began to kiss him.

As often happened when they let their romance creep into their professional lives, they were interrupted. The intercom on Alex’s desk beeped and her secretary’s voice came on. “Ms. Cahill, Carlos Sandoval is here to see you.” Keeping her arms around Walker and looking at the faceless intercom, she responded, “Send him in.” She began to turn out of Walker’s arms to greet Carlos. Walker’s hand trailed down her back to that sensitive spot that he loved to tickle. She moved her shoulder back trying to dislodge his arm, but he only grinned and let his hand drift even lower. Cupping her buttock in his hand, he squeezed gently and laughing, she pushed his hand away. Walker loved this new freedom to engage in little ‘stolen moments’ in the office. It went against all his training, but he was learning to loosen up and have a little fun. Alex had a way of bringing both joy and fun into his life. They both turned to face the door as it opened to admit Carlos. Frantically trying to rearrange their expressions to ones that appeared professional, they didn’t manage to fool Carlos. He grinned at the sparkle that each of them still had in their eyes.

Alex managed to finish out her first day and then went to meet the realtor with Walker. He insisted on accompanying her to see the property she and Josie had picked out when she informed him of just how far she had gotten in her dream. After surveying the property, he agreed that it was a good choice and that she was getting a good deal. He also offered to help out with the down payment. Alex balked at first, but he insisted and looking into his eyes, she saw that he was hurt that she hadn’t shared this with him earlier. She told him that she had planned to ask her father to help her with the down payment, but he suggested that Gordon could cough up renovation money. Alex agreed and the paperwork was filled out and filed.

Alex also had to file paperwork to found her nonprofit agency. She knew enough city officials to be able to get things going fairly quickly. On the day escrow closed, she stood on the front lawn with Walker’s arm around her, looking at her new purchase and feeling the magnitude of what she was taking on. “Walker, I’m so excited, it’s my dream coming true. Thank you for helping me out with the down payment.” “Glad to help out.” “Now I just got to come up with a name for it.” She had left that line blank on all of her application forms and it was the one thing that she needed to decide on. “Well, whatever you come up with, I’m sure will be great.” Walker had sat through several meals with Alex and Josie tossing ideas back and forth and still not coming up with ‘just the right name’. “You know, I just want to help our people,” she said, continuing a conversation from the night before. “Help our people… help our people…” Walker repeated with a thoughtful expression. Alex looked at him, wondering where his mind was heading. “H. O. P.,” he continued. “How about, Help Our People Excel, H.O.P.E. HOPE.” Alex repeated it to herself silently and then her eyes got wide with excitement. “It’s brilliant! OH!” she exclaimed as she grabbed his face and kissed him. “You, you are so smart,” she continued to praise him. “I have my moments,” he admitted with mock humility. “Yes you do have your moments don’t you,” she said, with a double meaning as she leaned in for another kiss.

“Let’s go in and walk through it one more time. You have time don’t you?” Walker suggested. Alex had cleared her calendar for a couple hours, not knowing how long the paperwork would take. “Yeah, I have time. Are you sure you have time?” Walker nodded, “Trivette said he’d call if he needed me.” Alex grinned at him and they headed into the house. Alex proudly inserted the key into the lock and let them in.

They headed upstairs first as Alex began outlining her plans for renovating the entire upstairs to house women and children who needed shelter from domestic abuse. Then they headed downstairs where they planned a daycare for low-income families. There was a large closet that she planned to enlarge to be a food pantry to store food for the needy. Walking through the downstairs rooms, she talked about how she wanted to establish offices and classrooms. “I want there to be comfortable, intimate settings, both for one on one counseling and support groups. My women’s group will finally have a permanent home.” “What about you and Josie? You’ll need offices.” “Yes, I thought I’d divide this front bedroom into two offices. One for her, since she’ll be running the day to day stuff and another for me, where we’ll keep the locked files and important paperwork. I’ll come in and manage the funds and fundraisers and organize volunteers for legal aid and abuse counseling. Oh, Walker, I can’t wait!”

Walker looked at her face and saw something he hadn’t seen since before the shooting. Alex was radiant. She was confident and she was looking forward to something. She had succeeded where so many fail. She had turned something horrible into something good and worthwhile. Now, as a prosecutor, she could help victims by putting their assailants behind bars, but she could also help them on a more personal level. She could help others turn adversity into triumph. “Alex?” “Hmm?” she asked distracted by the plans running through her mind. “I think I’m having another one of my ‘brilliant’ moments.” “Really? ” she asked, still not giving him her undivided attention. “This place will be full of volunteers starting this weekend right?” “Right.” “So this is probably the only time we will be assured total privacy right?” “I guess so.” “So, if we’re going to ‘christen’ the place, we should do it now.” “What? You already gave it a name.” She turned to look into his face and saw the raw hunger in his eyes. “Oh,” she gulped. Looking around at the barren room, she said, “Walker, there’s no furniture.”

“Furniture? Who needs furniture? Not Alex Cahill, brave woman who can live off the land out in the badlands and not even complain.” “I complained; I just did it quietly.” “Not the lady, who drugged a Texas Ranger and kidnapped him,” he continued as he walked towards her, crowding her until she was backed against the wall. “I had help,” she protested breathlessly. “Not the lady, who caught dinner with her bare hands,” he said as he undid the buttons of her blouse. “I had a fishing line and a hook in the pocket of my shorts,” she confessed. “Not the lady who cleaned and gutted fish as well as any fisherman,” he mumbled against the pulse point that beat frantically at her neck. “I was hungry,” she claimed weakly. “Not the sexy goddess that jumped on my back and wrestled me in the water,” he said between kisses down to her breast. “Oh!” she gasped as he clamped his lips around her lace-encased nipple. “Or the woman who nursed me back to health after too long in the sweat lodge,” he said as his fingers undid the clasp of her bra and he pushed her blouse and jacket off her shoulders and then slid her bra straps down her arms.

Walker paused to take in the picture she made. Her hair was mussed and her lips were parted. Her tongue flicked out to wet them as she panted in small gasps of air. Her breasts were pert and her nipples peaked in anticipation. “Strip for me like you did out there in the wild,” he said. “I didn’t have on heels and nylons then,” she protested. Looking up into the searing heat that burned from his eyes, she reached behind her to unzip her skirt as if mesmerized. It fell in a pool at her feet and then Walker stepped forward and slipped his hands into the waistband of her nylons. “I’ll help you,” he said as he lowered them, along with her panties down her long legs. He bent down before her and slipped off one shoe and then the other. She stood there with her bare back pressed against the wall and Walker, still fully clothed, kneeling at her feet.

He looked up at her and her hands went of their own accord to his full head of hair and pulled him into her. He rested his face against the silky mound of hair and inhaled the erotic scent of her aroused body. His hands reached up and clasped her buttocks, as he tasted her, gently, just barely touching. She moaned in frustration; her body was on fire and only he could douse the flames. He continued to touch her with his tongue, nibbling her lips gently with his teeth. The wetness oozed from her as his hot breath stirred the fine hairs that covered her aching need.

Walker’s hands went down to his belt buckle and he undid it and then gently eased the zipper over his stiff rod. He pulled himself free of the confinement and then he began to stand, slowly kissing back up her body until his mouth covered hers and she tasted herself on his hot mouth. His body pressed hers flat against the wall and crushed her so that his hard erection pressed flat against her belly. Her hands struggled between them, seeking his hardness. He stepped back slightly, allowing her to rub the pre cum from his tip and soothe it down his pulsing shaft. Then he stooped and gripped her buttocks firmly in each of his hands and lifted her high into the air. Her hands flew to his shoulders for balance as he lifted her above the tip of his shaft and then he impaled her in one smooth motion. He shifted slightly, her back resting against the wall and his feet spread to take on her added weight. 

His hands gripped her buttocks firmly and he lifted her straight up and then back down again. Once he was firmly planted, deep inside her, he held her still in the same position as he pumped in and out of her. Deep long pumps that drove her farther into the wall and farther into the abyss. Gasping, she clenched his shoulders, digging her nails through the material of his shirt and into his flesh without thought. “I’m coming, Alex, I’m coming,” he gritted out between clenched teeth. “Yes, I’m ready, yes, Walker, now!” she screamed as his deep thrusts pushed her over the edge, his hot fluid spewing into her.

They stayed that way, her slumped against him and he supporting her weight until they heard a ringing sound. “Walker?” “Yes?” he panted. “I think your back pocket is ringing.” “What? Oh,” he said as he lifted her off of him and answered the cell phone that was tucked into the back pocket of his jeans. “Hello?” he panted. “Walker? You okay man? Sounds like you just ran a marathon.” “No, I’m fine, I’m just helping Alex move some stuff at her new center.” “The only thing you moved, cowboy, is me,” Alex whispered as she stood against the wall panting. “What, what was that?” Trivette asked. “Nothing, why’d you call?” “Oh, we need to get to the bank over on 3rd and Main. Silent alarm went off and they have a hostage situation. I’m headed there now.” “I’ll meet you,” Walker said and flipped the phone closed slipping it back into his pocket. He tucked himself back into his jeans and pulled the zip. Buckling his belt, he said, “I gotta go, hon. I’m glad we brought two cars. I’ll see you back at the office.” With that, he kissed her swollen lips quickly and turned and sped down the hall to the front door.

Alex slumped down to the ground and sat there dazed and completely nude. “Sure, I’ll meet you,” she said. A moment later, she gathered her wits enough to begin gathering her clothes. “Well, if this is anything like what being married to the man is going to be like…” she smiled to herself, “I for one can’t wait!”

Engaging Moments

Part 2

By: Lelani

Part 2 The More Things Change…

Ref: Season 6 Royal Heist through Children of Halloween

Walker and Alex went through a less traumatic adjustment period over the next several months. She was busy with her plans for HOPE Center and he returned to his usual hectic schedule as a Texas Ranger. Despite being engaged, they saw each other less than before. Alex was already extremely busy as an Assistant District Attorney and with most of her free time devoted to HOPE House, Walker rarely saw her unless she had either architectural plans in her hand or a paint brush. A less understanding man would have gotten angry, but Walker understood. He was also sympathetic. He himself devoted a great deal of time to the charity that was nearest his heart, Kick Drugs Out of America. When he thought of all the weekends Alex had helped him with tournaments, he couldn’t be anything but supportive in her new endeavor. His one major regret was that their sex life suffered the consequences of two very busy people trying to burn the candle at too many ends.

Alex had rushed the opening of HOPE Center along as quickly as she could. Her pull in local government made getting the necessary permits and funding that she needed a much easier task than most people encountered. Some of her programs would be receiving government support, like the daycare for impoverished families. They would receive the state allowance for daycare for that. But, that meant getting up to code on the building and all the licenses required. Alex and Josie started to feel as if they were the engaged couple rather than Alex and Walker. The two women spent six to eight hours together on the weekdays and on the weekends, it was anywhere from sixteen to eighteen hours together.

Walker continued being as understanding as possible, but on the night that he finally got Alex out to dinner alone, all she could talk about was setting Jimmy and Josie up. “Alex!” he finally said in exasperation. “What?” she questioned innocently, oblivious to why he’d used such a sharp tone. “Do you think that we could focus on our love life rather than Trivette and Josie’s?” Alex looked at him and then smiled. She pursed her lips at him in a sympathetic pout. “Feeling neglected, Cowboy?” “Yes, actually, I am!” he told her. Alex placed her hand over his. “Dance with me?” Walker grimaced, that wasn’t exactly what he had in mind, but then again, it was a nice restaurant and it was slow music so he would be able to just hold her close. He stood and offered her his hand and led her out to the dance floor. Once there, he pulled her into his chest and slid his arm around to mold her to his entire length.

Swaying to the music, cheek to cheek, Alex was in no doubt as to the mood Walker was in. He was extremely amorous and she felt her own body responding to the hard maleness of his. She reached her hand up into his hair and played with the fringe at his neckline. Her head tilted up to kiss the underside of his chin and then she nibbled slightly and then licked and blew the area dry. Walker was playing his own game of seduction as his fingers tickled that sensitive spot on her back, down low. She had worn a dress that dipped all the way down exposing her back. It had a high cut front, but almost no back. He took advantage of the exposed skin to play his fingers over her spine and to draw tiny circles that lit the fires within her.

Alex was in a dreamy sensual haze and she leaned up to his ear and made a suggestion. “Let’s pay the check and then go back to the ranch and make love all night long.” “You’re not too tired?” he asked with a tickling whisper into her ear. “Uh uh, not anymore,” she denied as she ground herself against the bulge that pressed against her belly. He chuckled and then gasped at her brazen action. “Behave yourself, Counselor; we’re in a public setting.” “Well, you better get me out of here fast before I really embarrass you,” she told him with a wicked grin. “Just stick close,” he admonished her as he turned her in his arms and followed her back to their table, trying to hide his condition from prying eyes.

They sat at their table and declined dessert and then asked for the check. “We have dessert waiting at home,” Alex told him as the waiter left the table. “Oh, lady, we sure do,” he said. Their eyes were locked, promising each other an all night trip to heaven. Alex’s cell phone rang and Walker felt his stomach drop in disappointment. He knew what that ring signified. “He’s right here,” she said, as she too looked crestfallen.

She handed him the phone and Trivette filled him in on a possible break on the burglary ring they were investigating. “I’m sorry,” Walker said as he looked at Alex. She just nodded and watched as he signed the credit card receipt and handed it back to the waiter. She put her phone back in her purse and grabbed her wrap, as he put his credit card in his wallet and put his wallet back in his pocket. They headed out without a word. Walker offered to take her home, but her car was at the HOPE Center. He had picked her up there after she finished a support group. It was her usual one, but it had moved to HOPE Center to meet, as she had managed to get the group counseling room decorated and furnished. He nodded to her and then turned the Ram in that direction.

It was nearly a week later that they had any more time alone together. He had come to her apartment on a whim. He knocked on the door and waited and then knocked again when there wasn’t a response to his first knock. He had seen the light on in her living room window when he had driven up, so he assumed that she was up. He thought that perhaps she was in the bathroom. He was just about to use his key in the lock when he heard the sound of the door being opened. Alex stood there wiping the sleep from her face, as she opened the door to let him in. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you up,” he apologized as he stepped in and shifted her out of the way so that he could close the door. “I thought that you were up, I saw the light.” She nodded, “Yes, I was, I must have dozed off.”

Walker led the way back to the living room where she had been sitting going over a case that she was set to prosecute the next day. She had her files strewn across the coffee table. “I just closed my eyes for a minute,” she said with a rueful grin. “Alex, you’re not getting enough sleep. You’re taking on too much.” “I’m fine,” she claimed. Walker traced the dark circles under her eyes and questioned her without needing to say a word. “It’s just this case. I have to present a lot of DNA evidence and I’ve had to really study it so that I understand it well enough to explain it to the jury.” “I thought the experts were supposed to do that.” “Oh please, Doctor Riley is the expert. I don’t understand him when he says ‘hello.’” Walker laughed at her and then said, “Then why not get another expert witness?” “I would have if I’d realized it in time. I just wasn’t paying attention and by the time I saw who was scheduled to testify, it was too late to change.”

“You didn’t realize it in time? That’s not like you,” he said.  “Yes, well, I haven’t been in the office as much these last couple of weeks…” “And now excuses, that’s really not like you.” “Who asked you? And what are you doing here anyway? Did you come by just to harass me?” “No, I came by to see you. I feel as if you’re a stranger and I wanted to remind you that you’re my fiancée.” “As if I could forget, I have the ring you know?” Walker nodded and saw the ornery look in her eyes. He had riled her up and she was too tired to be rational. “I’ll go and let you get some sleep,” he said as he turned on his heel and strode out the door. Alex stood there stunned. “Damn,” she muttered. She knew that she was going to have to make it up to him, somehow.

The next day, Alex’s trial was tedious and she was in a less than pleasant mood when she saw Walker. As much as she regretted the way the previous night had turned out, she didn’t know how to rectify the situation, so she merely nodded to him and continued on to her office to get ready for the afternoon’s testimony. Walker interrupted her though and entered with barely a knock. He was the only one brave enough to do so, so she knew it would be him when the door opened. “Have you had lunch?” he asked. “I don’t have time,” she responded. “You do for this,” he told her and set a tuna salad in front of her. “Eat it while you work. I’ll see you later.”

He turned to leave, but she called after him. “Walker?” “Yes?” “I’m sorry about last night,” she said with a sincere apology in her eyes. “Yeah, me too,” he said. “Thank you for this,” she added, her hand indicating the tuna salad. He shrugged, “I love you, Alex, and I don’t like to see you working so hard.” “I know, but things are coming together at HOPE Center and then it won’t take so much time. You will escort me to the fundraiser tomorrow afternoon won’t you?” “Count on it,” he said with a smile and a wink. He left the room and she said, “I love you too, Cowboy,” and then got back to work.

True to his word, Walker went to the fundraiser. He had volunteered Carlos Sandoval to work with one of the boys who had begun coming to the center with his mother. The boy, Leon, was ‘at risk’ of joining a gang and Carlos was trying to show him the error of his ways. Walker had helped in different ways with getting the center established. He’d done his share of painting and repairing, had greased some squeaky wheels downtown for Alex, and had given her sound advice. The one thing he really would rather have not had to do was to dress up and act polite with all of the potential donors to the charity at the fundraiser. But for Alex, he would do just about anything.

Alex was thrilled with the turnout and pulled Walker from one person to the next, introducing him as her ‘fiancée.’ Walker was more than ready for the late afternoon gathering to be over and was relieved when he saw people begin to leave. He had to admit that Josie and Alex had both done a great job of presenting their vision and judging by the checks he saw being handed over, the fundraiser had been a success. He waited for Alex to finish up with the curator of the museum she had introduced him to and then watched as the man finally took his leave. He had a feeling that he and several of the other men in the room had been more generous than they would have been if Alex didn’t look like, well… Alex. He stood watching her move gracefully, smiling and chatting, her hand touching several people on the arm and then drifting back to her side.

Alex was very physically demonstrative. She liked to touch. Back in the days of old, it had caused him problems. For one, he was trying to maintain a friendship with her and she would suddenly rest her hand on his thigh and all of his nerve endings would go wild, responding to her touch. Another reason was his determination to keep their relationship purely professional. She’d rest her hand on his arm and others in the office would look and speculate.

As he watched his beautiful fiancée, he realized that it was simply a part of who she was and that she couldn’t help it. A part of him was jealous that she felt comfortable touching others, but then he chastised himself silently. He knew that there was a difference in the way she touched an acquaintance and the way she touched him. He’d always known that there was a difference, even when he wouldn’t admit it. Walker shook his head and realized that there was only one couple left and they were slowly edging towards the door as Alex thanked them for their donation.

Walker took a deep breath and shook himself out of his daydreams. He walked over to Alex and wrapped his arm around her waist from behind, resting his palm on her abdomen. He smiled politely to the couple and then realized that he had seen the woman somewhere before. He ran through the catalogue of faces in his mind and finally placed her as an evening news reporter. Then he realized that Alex had invited her because she often did human interest stories and Alex had gotten her to agree to do one on HOPE Center.

After the woman and her escort left, Walker attempted to turn Alex in his arms to face him. She resisted though and stepped out of his embrace. Walker looked puzzled, but all she said was, “Josie has already begun the cleanup, I need to help.” Walker pitched in and the volunteers soon had the place put back together.

Jimmy was working undercover with the ring who had stolen a great many guns. He had left, promising to come back to help with painting the daycare room. Josie had tried to get him to volunteer in the nursery, but he compromised, saying he would go in there if he had a paintbrush in his hands and diapers were not in the job description. Josie laughed as she relayed the story to Alex. Alex laughed at the joke, but Walker sensed that something was wrong.

Dusk had fallen before they were able to leave the center. There was no nighttime staff as yet. Josie was planning to move into an apartment they had prepared for her to live in, at least until the center was fully established. She hadn’t given up her apartment yet though and was planning to move in at the end of the month. Alex locked the door and then followed Walker out to the Ram. She climbed into the cab without saying a word. Walker got behind the wheel and gave her a puzzled glance. He started the engine and began to drive in the direction of the ranch.

“I’d like to go to my apartment please,” Alex said. He looked over at her, “You’re apartment? Did you forget something?” “No, I just want to go home,” she said. “I thought you were going to spend the night at the ranch tonight.” “Oh, I didn’t remember you inviting me.” “Since when do you need an invitation?” Alex shrugged, “Maybe that’s not the right word. I just don’t remember you ‘asking’ me.” “Alex, please stop talking in riddles.” “All right, Walker. I ― want ― to ― go ― home,” she said slowly and clearly. Realizing that she was angry about something, he headed to her apartment complex.

After they had arrived, Alex hopped out and thanked him for the ride. “I’m coming up,” he said, not waiting for an invitation. She didn’t respond, but merely headed in to the elevator. She pushed the button and waited for the doors to open. Stepping in, she moved to push the button for her floor, but Walker beat her to it. They rode up in silence and then stepped out onto her floor. Alex had her key out and opened her front door. Walker followed her in and headed into the sitting room and waited for her to follow.

Alex put her jacket and purse away and then walked into the kitchen to get herself a tall glass of ice water. It had been a long afternoon and she felt that if she smiled one more time, her face muscles were going to crack. Her throat was parched from all the talking and she knew that she was going to need to do some more ―judging by the way Walker stood at the ready in her living room.

Walker was intrigued; it wasn’t like Alex not to offer him a drink. She didn’t though, she merely got herself something and then came back into the room and sat down in the chair with her legs stretched out in front of her and kicked her shoes off. “Alex, care to tell me what you’re upset about?” “No, Walker, I don’t care to tell you. I’m tired and I’d like to relax in my own home. I didn’t invite you, you invited yourself.” “And we’re back to the invitation theme again. I know that we didn’t make specific plans, but we haven’t spent time together in weeks and I just assumed that after this afternoon, we would eat dinner together and get a chance to be alone with each other.” “Well, you know what they say about the word assume…” “Damn it, Alex! Will you just tell me what’s go your nose out of joint?”

Alex heaved a huge sigh and said, “Did you ever happen to glance in the mirror this afternoon?” Walker was stumped, “No, I can’t say that I did. Did I have food in my beard or something?” “Don’t be ridiculous. You walked around all afternoon looking like a man on his way to death row. I know that you haven’t been thrilled with the amount of time that I have been devoting to HOPE House, but I thought that I could count on your support. I guess I was wrong.” “What? What in the hell are you talking about? I went to your fundraiser to support you!” “Did you speak to even one person unless I forced you to?” “Alex, I hate those types of events, you know that! Why are you suddenly upset that I wasn’t thrilled to be there?” “And you think I’m a huge fan of karate tournaments? But at least when I go, I smile and I’m pleasant to people. I don’t look as if I was just at the dentist and had all of my personality pulled along with my teeth!”

Walker felt his own blood pressure on the rise. “I’m sorry if you don’t think that I was social enough for you, but you knew I wasn’t fond of social events long before we got engaged. And if you don’t like karate, I certainly won’t force you to go again!” “I didn’t say that I didn’t like karate, just that it isn’t my cup of tea. The point I’m trying to make is that I find a way to fit in and to support you even when people are talking about things I know nothing about and I’m feeling completely lost. You, on the other hand, didn’t even make an effort today.” “Really? The fact that I took off work early, went home to shower and dress, and then spent my afternoon making nice with cardboard people, wasn’t make an effort?” “Walker….” “Alex….” They both cried in unison, “Forget it!” Walker stood and strode to the front door and let himself out, closing the door with a decisive click. “Grrrrr….. MEN!” Alex said with all the emotion she could muster and then she went into the kitchen and decided to forgo dinner in favor of some chocolate ice cream.

The next day at work, Walker and Alex had to meet with FBI Agent Doug Foster to discuss the case. They knew that something big was about to go down, but it wasn’t until Alex said that it must be a king’s ransom that the agent realized that it was the jewels at the Dallas Museum that belonged to the royal family of Kunai that were the most likely target.

Walker participated in the bust that nabbed the very same museum curator that Alex had introduced him to just the day before. Walker was sure to smile at him this time though. It took all he had not to go to Alex and gloat about how her ‘donor’ was the mastermind behind one of the biggest jewelry heists in the history of Dallas. Alex filed the paperwork and didn’t give Walker the satisfaction of seeing her chagrin.

That Saturday, Alex worked all day helping put the finishing touches on the daycare. Jimmy was there, as promised, and he painted the large room while she and Josie measured and sewed the curtains, put together the small furnishings and unpackaged all of the toys. On Sunday, she went over alone and began putting the room together now that the paint had dried. Jimmy and Josie had offered to help, but she wanted her friends to go out and do something fun for a change. They had all worked so hard for this opening.

She was well into her self-appointed task when she heard a sound behind her and turned to see Walker standing there. He was leaning against the doorjamb and watching her try to hang a curtain rod alone. “Can I give you a hand?” he asked. “Sure, grab the other end,” she instructed him. With two people, the curtain rod slipped right into its hooks and they hung the other panels as well. Alex stepped back to survey the room and Walker said, “It really looks great.” “Yeah, it’s coming along.”

The two stood there awkwardly, neither had apologized for the words they’d said the night of the fundraiser and they were both embarrassed. Alex finally broke the silence. “What are you doing here?” “Looking for you,” he admitted with a shrug. “Oh,” she said and then stood there quietly again. Finally, they both spoke at the same time, “Alex…” “Walker…” They laughed and he said, “Wait, let me go first.” She nodded and stood there looking at him. “I thought about what you said the other night, after I got over being angry.” She nodded and waited. “I think that you were right, I really could have been more supportive. I am glad that you are starting this center. I think that it will do a lot of good and I also think that you’ll get a lot of satisfaction from it. You need to have something positive to focus on in your life and if this is it, then I’m behind you all the way.” “Even if it means wearing a suit and going to fundraisers?” Walker smiled at her, “Even if.”

Alex stood looking at him and then said, “I wanted to apologize too. I said some things the other night that I really didn’t mean.” “And the things you did mean?” he asked. She frowned at him, but then answered. “I do feel supported by you, but I am tired and I was a little nervous ― thinking that maybe I had bit off more than I could chew. I just wanted you to take me into your arms and tell me that everything was going to be all right. Real liberated woman of me, right?” “Liberated, doesn’t mean that you’re invulnerable,” he said and then did what she had wanted him to do the night of the fundraiser.

Walker pulled her tight into his chest, giving her a bear hug. “It’s going to be all right, Alex. You’ll do a wonderful job here and it will be a tremendous success.” “You really think so?” she asked, still seeking reassurance. “I know so. This center wasn’t started without a lot of thought and planning. You and Josie have been hatching this scheme for a very long time, haven’t you?” Alex smiled and nodded against his broad chest. “I thought so. You know what you’re doing and you’re putting your heart and soul into it. And you have one other thing that will guarantee its success.” “What?” came her muffled question. “Your hard head. You don’t know how to take ‘no’ for an answer.” He squeezed her again and kissed the top of her head, “You also have my support… and my love,” he said.

Alex smiled against his chest. “Thank you, that’s all I needed to hear.” “You mean, I’ve been sleeping alone night after night and that’s all I needed to say?” “Uh huh,” she answered. He smiled and kissed her hair again. “Walker?” “Yes?” “I think we’ve done enough work today and I’m kinda tired.” “You are?” “Yes. Do you think that we could go to my apartment so I can shower and get some things for tomorrow? And then we can go spend the evening at the ranch.” “You’ll stay the night?” “Yes, I don’t want you sleeping alone.” “Me either!” he said and pulled her out toward the front door.

The next week, Alex and Walker were back to normal. Alex was as busy as she had been, but they had come to terms with the fact that while the HOPE Center was being established, their relationship would have to thrive on stolen moments together.

Alex received a package addressed to Walker and Trivette. It had been sent to her office and she walked down to hand deliver it. She met Leon and his mother in the hall with Carlos Sandoval. Leon’s life had been impacted by Carlos and he had joined the boy scouts rather than the street gang he had been tempted to join.

Alex gave the package to Walker, but Jimmy ripped it out of his hands to open it when he found that it was from the Sultan of Kunai. He was sure that it was money or jewels and couldn’t hide his disappointment when he only found two metals in the box. Everyone laughed at him, but he was really chagrined when Alex took Walker’s metal from him and draped it around his neck and said, “My brave man,” as she kissed him. Walker was definitely not disappointed. He’d trade jewels for kisses from Alex any day.

Despite making up their argument, Alex and Walker continued to be extremely busy and they spent much less time together than either would have liked. Alex was devoted to getting HOPE Center up and running and she was successful beyond her wildest dreams. People seeking the services the center offered poured in at a constant pace and she was grateful that the donations also continued to come in. Within months of opening their doors, HOPE Center was operating beyond Josie and Alex’s expectations and they were being challenged to expand their services.

Judge Art McFadden, an old friend of both Alex and Walker, asked her to become involved in a foundation that he had begun with proceeds from the sell of his ‘Wild West’ books that he authored. He worked with children of incarcerated parents, trying to help steer them onto a good path in life and not follow in their parent’s footsteps. Walker and Alex had attended a few of his day camps that he held at his ranch and he asked Alex if she had any children from the center who might like to join in on a horseback riding trip that would include a campout.

Alex thought that Jason, a young boy whose mother the center was helping since her husband had been jailed for spousal abuse, could benefit from a chance to get away from the turmoil of his life at present. Jason was a good kid, but he had been through a lot in his young life. He was especially bonded to Walker and she thought that maybe he would like the trip and make friends with other kids in similar situations.

She and Walker dragged Trivette along one weekend to spend a day at the Judge’s ranch with the kids who were enrolled in Judge McFadden’s program. Walker took Jason and helped him to fit in with the other kids as best he could. Whenever she had a free moment, Alex merely sat on the sidelines and dreamed of the day Walker would spend time with their own children. She didn’t have much time to daydream though; Judge McFadden had invited a camera crew along to tape the day in order to promote his program.

Just as the sun was sinking and the kids sat around the campfire to roast marshmallows and listen to one of the judge’s stories, Alex felt a warm presence behind her. Walker slipped his arms around her waist as she stood on the periphery of the campfire circle. Leaning back against him, Alex sighed and just reveled in the feel of his strong arms holding her and his hard chest pillowing her back. She leaned her head back against his shoulder and just floated as she listened to the judge’s voice without hearing his words.

Walker pulled Alex back slightly, making her take a step backwards. He pulled her off balance again so that she took another step. By the third step, she was catching on and walked backwards with him out of the circle of light and into the trees where they were hidden from view. Turning her in his arms so that she faced him, he pulled her close and bent down to kiss her. “Hi,” he whispered against her mouth. “Hi,” she answered as she kissed him hungrily. “Walker, we shouldn’t…” she began as his hands cupped her bottom and tugged her closer still. “I miss you, Alex. I’ve been watching you all day, not able to touch you and it’s driving me crazy!” “Tell me about it,” she said as she grasped the back of his neck and pulled his face back down to hers.

The two lovers kissed passionately, quietly reacquainting themselves with each other. Once again, they hadn’t been alone together in days and even more nights. “This has got to end,” Walker said. Alex released her tight grip and took a small step back. “Not this!” Walker clarified as he pulled her back into his embrace. “What?” she asked, but her question was muffled as his mouth once again closed over hers. “I meant, this not seeing each other,” he explained as his lips trailed down her neck, his teeth nibbling gently. “Oh, that!” she gasped as he sucked her earlobe into his warm mouth. “I agree,” she breathed, “but I don’t know how to fix it just now.”

They continued kissing and touching, fondling and caressing, each wishing it could be more and both nearly forgetting that it couldn’t be. “Walker, the kids…” Alex protested as his lips teased the neckline of her shirt. Walker stopped suddenly, all of his senses focusing on a noise he heard. He pulled Alex along as he stooped under branches and his unerring sense of direction landed them near the vans they had used to bring the kids out to the judge’s ranch. “What?” Alex asked, uncertain why they had moved so suddenly and feeling the disappointment course through her body.

Walker didn’t answer, but instead grabbed a duffle bag and tossed it at her as he grabbed a couple himself that he threw haphazardly into the van and then grabbed a couple more. “There you are!” the judge’s booming voice could be heard as he walked toward them. “I’ve had the gang hunting for you since the story ended. “Oh, we just thought we’d start packing up while you kept the kids entertained with your story,” Walker explained nonchalantly. “Good idea. It’s been a great day, but I think we have some pretty tired campers.” Alex nodded and handed Walker the duffel he had thrown her and then walked away to start packing up the left over foodstuffs. With his back turned to the judge, Walker continued packing up and the judge walked over to greet the group of kids heading his way with Trivette.

“Walker and Alex were just packing us up. Did you all make sure that the fire was all the way out?” he asked. Jimmy looked at Walker and Alex’s frenetic pace and doubted that clean up had been on their mind when they snuck away, but he was wise enough not to say anything. Then again, he couldn’t resist a little dig. “Gosh partner, you should have let me know, I would have helped. Alex could have stayed with the kids.” Walker ignored Trivette’s remark, correctly judging it for what it was, his way of letting them know he hadn’t been fooled for a minute.

After the two vans were loaded, Judge McFadden asked Alex to ride shotgun with him so he could discuss his upcoming book signing at C.D.’s and ask her to introduce the planned news segment on his program. Alex looked regretfully at Walker and he acknowledged her look with a look of his own, but they parted, knowing that they wouldn’t get another chance to be together that night. She was scheduled to stay the night at HOPE House both nights that weekend. Josie had the weekend off and they had gotten Sharon Clark, the psychologist who was helping so many of their victim’s groups, cover for the day, while Alex was away, but they needed someone there at night to field calls for potential crisis.

The day of the horseback riding trip arrived, but Walker was too tied up on a case where people who were seemingly unrelated had been killed. Forensics told them that it was the same killer and he and Trivette were busy following up any leads they could find. Alex went to the judge’s ranch with C.D. to go on the trail ride and camp out.

They enjoyed a pleasant ride and the weather was beautiful. After rescuing a fawn that had been injured and later watching the fawn reunite with its mother, they stopped for lunch. Alex was happy to see that the judge’s granddaughter, Katie, who had lost her parents six months previously, had begun to form a strong friendship with Cindy, a girl a year or two younger than herself, who had also lost her parents. Cindy’s father was in jail and her mother had died several months previously. Cindy lived in a foster home and she was so painfully shy and lacking in self-esteem, that Alex was truly concerned for her.

After convincing the judge to tell them another story, the group began to get ready for the rest of the ride to their nighttime campsite. A large SUV came barreling down on them and C.D. stood in its path to give the kids time to scatter into the woods. Alex and Judge McFadden encouraged them to run for cover, but when C.D. was struck and thrown onto the hood of the vehicle and landed with a thud, Alex went rushing to his aid.

Walker and Trivette’s case began to come together until they realized that the man responsible was killing everyone involved in sentencing him to prison. Dirk Morgan had escaped from prison and had already killed the jury foreperson and the prosecuting DA. That was the missing link they couldn’t put together when the deaths had seemed unrelated. It was obvious that the presiding judge would be next on their list and that judge was none other than Judge Art McFadden. They raced to his ranch as quickly as they could, only to find that his ranch foreman had been murdered. They then took the Ram off-roading and sailed through the air to find the judge and the rest of the group.

When they arrived, it was to find C.D. lying on the ground injured, Judge McFadden dangling from a noose and Alex trying to break free from some goons. Walker and Trivette came in with fist and feet flying. Alex got a few good kicks and punches in as well and the group of outlaws was soon dispatched. Trivette radioed for a helicopter to fly in and air lift C.D. out of the woods. There was no way he would be able to make the trip in the wagon or in the Ram, he was severely bruised and had a few broken ribs.

Cindy was ashamed that her father, Dirk Morgan, had tried to kill Judge McFadden. When she went to apologize, the judge told her that it wasn’t her fault, only her father’s. He then asked his granddaughter what she thought of having Cindy move into the ranch with them. Katie was ecstatic and Cindy was too.

Walker checked to make sure Alex was all right and then helped with the kids. It was decided that they would continue their campout. Judge McFadden wanted the kids to get to experience the outdoors and he wasn’t going to let a little thing like nearly being hung to death stop him. Walker helped secure Morgan and his accomplices in the bed of the Ram and then let Trivette drive his truck back into town. The police were already at the ranch waiting for the captured men. He told Trivette to do all the paperwork, keep C.D. in the hospital, tied to the bed if necessary, and he would stay with the judge, the kids and most importantly, Alex. Trivette grumbled ―loudly― but he did take the Ram and head out. He was sincerely worried about his pal C.D.

Alex reorganized the kids and horses while Walker checked the wagon for damage. They headed out with Walker driving the wagon and the judge resting in the seat next to him. He wasn’t about to let on about the discomfort he felt in his neck and shoulders, but Alex checked on him every fifteen minutes anyway. Katie and Cindy each did the same, so that someone asked him how he was in five minute intervals. Walker chuckled, amused at the ‘mother hens’, but finally took pity on the judge and told the ‘womenfolk’ that he would inform them if there were any problems. They made it to their destination after two hours and the judge was eternally grateful for the peace he’d enjoyed the last hour of the trip.

After making camp, Walker taught the kids how to prepare a fire and a meal outdoors. Alex was glad that he was there, if anyone knew about living in the great outdoors, it was Walker. Alex watched as Jason and several of the other kids, hero-worshipped her fiancée. She knew the feeling and couldn’t blame them. Walker also told the campfire story that night, taking pity on the judge, whose throat was rather sore. He kept the kids captivated with an Indian legend and then suggested and early night. The kids protested, but in truth, it had been a long tiring day for all of them.

After laying their sleeping bags out in a circle around the campfire, everyone turned in for the night. Walker lay there under the stars thinking about Alex who was two sleeping bags away. He could smell her scent and he decided that he’d found a much more effective means of torture than anything the Viet Kong had devised.

At nearly midnight, he heard someone get out of their sleeping bag and sneak off into the woods. Realizing that it was Alex, he followed in stealth mode. Despite his caution, he was surprised that she knew he was there and flung herself into his arms. “What took you so long?” she cried as she began placing kisses anywhere she could reach. When he could finally speak, he said, “I thought maybe you had snuck off to use the bathroom and I didn’t want to intrude.” “Idiot,” she scolded him in between nibbles on his neck. He smiled at her scolding and began returning her kisses with interest.

“Walker?” a voice called from the campfire. “Damn,” Walker muttered against Alex’s collarbone. “You’d better go,” Alex said, while cursing silently herself. Walker released her and returned to counsel Jason who had awakened from a bad dream. ‘Foiled again,’ Alex thought as she stole back to camp and climbed back into her sleeping bag, even more frustrated than before. ‘This is getting ridiculous,’ she decided as she tried in vain to get some sleep.

Alex and Walker continued to lead their lives at a frenetic pace. Alex was now organizing volunteers for the center and she had hopes that sometime in the near future, she wouldn’t have to devote so much of her personal time to running things. She and Josie were training people to answer their crisis line and getting others to work in the food pantry, tutoring school-aged children, getting daycare helpers. With all that they were doing, Josie and the director of the daycare, Laura Ramirez, were the only paid employees. Alex did not draw any funds from the center, but she also was no longer having to put money into it. If, after one year, they could afford it, she would begin to recoup the money she had invested initially and pay both her father and Walker back, but neither was in any hurry.

Alex met a young girl named Melissa when she came through the courts on shoplifting charges. Alex decided that with a little work, Melissa could become a wonderful young woman, so she talked the judge into giving her community service hours and sentencing her to work at HOPE House. Things were going smoothly until Alex caught her eyeing her purse. Melissa was upset at having been caught and stormed off. Josie came up and said, “Sweet kid.” “Well, that’s the trouble.” Alex answered, “Underneath all that bad attitude, there really is a sweet kid just screaming to get out.” “Maybe we should cut her open and see,” Josie suggested. Alex laughed at her friend’s gallows humor and went on to finish the project she had begun.

Meanwhile, Walker was busy looking for children who had been kidnapped. Occult symbols were painted on the places the children were kidnapped from, so Walker and Trivette headed to a magic shop to see if they could get a lead on the people responsible. What they got was the chance to meet Cassandra. She turned out to be very helpful, but she clearly had the ‘hot’s’ for Walker and Trivette ribbed him about it all the way back to headquarters.

“Don’t you dare breathe a word of this to Alex,” Walker warned him. “Why not? Alex could wipe the floor with Cassandra.” “I’m sure she could, but with both of us working so hard lately and then with HOPE House, we almost never spend any time together and I don’t think she’d be too thrilled to hear about some woman coming on to me.” “Uh oh, trouble in paradise?” Trivette asked. “No, we just need to spend some time together, but we don’t ever seem to get the chance.” “Well, is HOPE House doing anything for Halloween?” Trivette asked. “Alex said that they are going to have a party for the kids, early though.” “Great, why don’t you invite her to meet you over at C.D.’s when it’s done? He always throws a great Halloween party at his place.” “You seem to miss the point, Trivette. I see Alex at work and I see her at C.D.’s, but I don’t see her when no one else is around.” “I get it, partner. I said to have her meet you there; I didn’t say that you had to stay.” Walker didn’t answer, but he thought that Trivette might actually be on to something.

Walker called Alex later that night and they chatted on the phone, catching each other up on their daily lives. They had met for lunch the day before, but others were around and it just wasn’t the same. “I miss you,” Walker’s voice came across the phone and tickled Alex’s ear as she snuggled under the covers in bed. “I miss you, too.” “What about meeting me at C.D.’s after the Halloween party at HOPE Center?” “Are you asking me out on a date, Cowboy?” “Well, I was really thinking about asking you in on a date. I thought we could meet at C.D.’s and then maybe go back to your place since it’s closer and I don’t think I’ll be able to control my ‘lustful thoughts’ once I see you.”

Alex laughed into the receiver, “I have another solution for controlling those ‘lustful thoughts.’” “Oh, what’s that?” “Did I tell you what my costume for the children’s party is going to be?” “No, I don’t think you did.” “I’m going as the Easter Bunny.” “What? Why?” “It was Josie’s idea. We’re all dressing up as fictional characters. She’s going as Little Red Riding Hood.” “How about if you switch costumes with her and I’ll come as the Big Bad Wolf?” Alex was really laughing now. “I’ll meet you at C.D.’s and you can take me home and find out what I’m wearing underneath the rabbit costume.” “Now that sounds like a plan!” Walker purred into her ear.

A second incident with Melissa occurred while they got HOPE House ready for the Halloween party. It appeared as if she was stealing money from Josie’s purse. Alex was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt though and followed her outside to talk with her. The people, who belonged to the cult, following a man who claimed to be the son of Satan, were in the process of kidnapping Melissa. Alex tried to stop them, but she was hit over the head from behind and drug into the van.

Walker and Trivette raced over when they got the call from Josie that Alex was missing. A pentagram was painted on the garage door at HOPE House and they now knew that the people of the cult were preparing for the ‘ritual of ascension’ and that they would be sacrificing Alex and the kids at midnight that night, Halloween.

Walker called out all the help he could find and they determined that the sacrifices would most likely occur at a cemetery. He divided groups up into teams to scour the cemeteries in the area they had defined. Walker and Trivette hit the jackpot when they saw robed figures carrying kids out of a crypt. Trivette took over rescuing the kids, while Walker ran to where Alex was staked to the ground with ‘the son of Satan’ preparing to plunge a knife into her.

Walker rushed the group, but more cloaked figures used lit torches to keep him away from Alex as Lucifer untied her and tried to get far enough away that he would have time to sacrifice her. Walker fought off the cloaked figures and rushed to where Alex was being held by one of Lucifer’s followers while Lucifer made his vows to Satan before plunging the knife into her. Walker kicked Lucifer away from her and Alex used her elbow to get out of the cloaked woman’s grip. She followed it up with a right hook and decked the woman. A battle ensued and Lucifer landed on his own knife, dispelling his belief in his own immortality.

Walker went to Alex as she untied the gag that they had put on her. “Are you okay?” he asked in concern. “Yeah,” she answered. He hugged her to him briefly and then put his arm around her and led her to where the Calvary, led by Trivette, had arrived. Trent and Carlos were there along with Dallas PD and they soon rounded up the various cult members. The coroner’s wagon was called to deal with the mental patient who believed himself to be the son of Satan and who called himself Lucifer.

Walker wanted to get Alex to the Ram and take her home, but she refused to follow him, concerned for Melissa and all the other traumatized children. It turned into a long night, making sure that all the kids were okay and that charges were filed on the missing cult members. Alex switched from counseling to counselor and as much as he wanted to just take her home and hold her close, Walker had to admit that she was a woman to be admired. She had survived the trauma and was able to put it aside and to help others.

It was nearly four a.m. before they finally reached the door to her apartment. Alex fumbled the key in her fatigue and Walker took it from her fingers and opened the door for her. It was all Alex could do to walk into the front room. Walker led her in an almost sleepwalking trance to the bedroom where he undressed her and readied her for bed. He knew that the trauma of the evening wasn’t over for her and he stripped down to his briefs and crawled into the bed with her to cuddle her close until late morning when he quietly crept out of the bed and headed to the ranch to shower and change for work.

Alex awoke and looked at her alarm clock. It read ten a.m. and she jumped out of bed, shocked at the time. She rushed into the bathroom and saw Walker’s note scrawled in her lipstick on the mirror. “He never uses pen and paper,” she muttered. The message read, “You have the day off. Meet me at C.D.’s tonight, bunny costume optional.” He had signed it, with just a C.W. “Typical, he used red lipstick and he can’t even draw a heart,” she complained to herself, but really his thoughtfulness at letting her sleep in and clearing it with her boss to give her the day off was thoughtful.

Alex spent the day just relaxing and doing household chores. She got a manicure and pedicure, called her father and read an article in a magazine she’d been wanting to get time to read. She called Josie and asked how things were going. Josie told her that Sharon had already met with Melissa and was counseling her. They had contacted the families of the other abducted children and offered to form a support group so that all of the kids could share their experiences with each other and work through the fear and trauma they had suffered. The parents were also invited to take place to learn how to best support their children during the healing process. Alex offered to come in, but Josie wouldn’t hear of it. She’d gotten a call from Walker telling her that under no circumstances was Alex to go in that day.

Alex got ready that night, a thrill of anticipation in her belly as she put on the black dress with the sculpted neckline that flattered her cleavage. She wore Walker’s favorite scent and left her hair down the way he liked it. She smiled to herself in the mirror as she headed out to meet him at C.D.’s. He had called and told her that he would swing by to pick her up, but Trivette was with him, so it would be the three of them in the Ram. Alex suggested that she drive her car and meet him there, she wanted to be able to have him all to herself, no sharing tonight.

Walker sat at the bar with Cassandra making a play for him. “So, are you telling me that my love spells didn’t work?” she asked as she ran her finger around the rim of her glass and sucked it into her mouth in a blatantly sexual move. “I’m afraid not, Cassandra,” Walker answered amused at her brazenness. “I must be slipping,” she said with regret. “Next time, I’ll try harder and I do hope there’ll be a next time,” she said as she crawled toward him as if she were part feline. “So, handsome, if you should change your mind…” she finished as she leaned in to kiss the side of his face near his mouth. She then got up and walked out.

Alex walked into C.D.’s in time to see a very attractive woman kissing her fiancée. The woman walked past her as if she wasn’t there and Alex did a 180 degree turn to watch her walk out. She then turned to approach Walker, ready to do battle. Walker had his back to her as she slipped onto the barstool next to him, the one Cassandra had just vacated. “Hi,” she said. Walker turned, caught off guard and trying to cover as he hoped and prayed that Alex hadn’t witnessed his little indiscretion. “Hi,” he said and waited to find out if he was busted or not. “Who’s that?” Alex asked. Busted. He knew it, so he tried to brazen it out. “It’s a long story,” he answered vaguely. “Good, we have all night,” she told him. Walker looked at her and saw the jealousy and possessiveness in her eyes and couldn’t help but laugh. As if she had anything to worry about, he thought.

Walker filled Alex in on how Cassandra had helped them with the case and then had apparently put a love spell on him, but he assured her that it had been unsuccessful. It took some fast talking, but he was fairly certain that he had succeeded in getting her cooled off. He then asked her to dance so that he could heat her back up again. They swayed to the seductive music as he twirled her slowly around the dance floor, just enjoying the feel of her in his arms. Alex began to melt into his body and he knew that she was over her ire and ready to head back to her apartment to make up. He eased her towards the door and was nearly there when Trivette tapped him on the shoulder.

Walker looked up with irritation at his partner. “Sorry, Walkman, but we gotta go. There’s a hostage situation at a mini-mart and we just got called.” “Let the DPD handle it,” Walker said with irritation. “Can’t, it’s Luther Crockett.” Walker stopped and looked at Trivette. He’d put Luther away once before and the man was as big as a bull and twice as mean. Trivette was right, he needed to be there. He looked at Alex who had read his expression. “I’ll see you later,” she said as she released him and stepped back. “I’m sorry,” he said. She just acknowledged his words with a nod. He reached in to give her a quick kiss and flew out the door behind Trivette.

Engaging Moments

Part 3

By: Lelani

Part 3 The will to survive…

Ref: Season 6 Survival and it’s after effects

A week after Halloween, Walker passed Alex at the elevators and realized that they still hadn’t had their night together. He grabbed her arm and dragged her into a utility closet. They’d been discovered in that closet by the janitor in the past, so he closed and locked the door before hauling her into his arms and kissing her soundly. “We have to stop meeting like this,” Alex giggled. “I agree!” Walker said and kissed her again. Minutes passed before they came up for air and Walker moaned as he leaned his forehead against hers. “I’m going crazy with wanting you,” he said. “I know,” Alex sighed as she panted to try and get enough oxygen, it seemed to have been sucked out of the room and the temperature was uncomfortably warm, despite the air-conditioning.

“Alex, we can’t keep going on like this, we have to do something.” “Like what?” she asked. “Let’s get away, just the two of us.” “Oh, that sounds like heaven. Where should we go?” Walker thought for a moment. “How about Utah? We had some good times there the last time we visited.” “Walker, you were attacked by a bear and some half-human creature dragged me off to his lair.” “I know, but we’ll go to Park City this time. It’s beautiful there and in the winter, they have great skiing.” “But it’s not winter yet, it’s still fall and it’s an Indian summer at that.” “Well, they have great hiking and camping.” “I want indoor plumbing,” she complained. “We’ll rent a cabin and spend part time in the cabin and part time camping,” he compromised. “Just you and me?” she asked, her face glowing. “Just you and me,” he promised. “Okay, when?” Walker thought, “Can you swing next week?” “No, but I could wrap up by Thursday night and we could head out for a long weekend.” “I want more than a weekend; clear your calendar and we’ll stay the following week.” “Walker, that’s a long time to leave HOPE House.” “Alex, when was the last time you took a vacation?” he asked. She didn’t answer. “Uh huh, a week, Alex.” She nodded her agreement and then they began kissing again until they heard the keys in the lock. “Damn,” Walker muttered as he broke apart from her and they headed out of the utility closet and smiled brazenly at the janitor who just shook his head and muttered under his breath.

Walker was working out with Trent when he mentioned the trip he and Alex had planned. “That sounds great!” Trent said. “What sounds great?” Carlos asked as he entered the gym and heard Trent’s statement. “Walker and Alex are going hiking in Utah,” he said. “Hiking? That sounds great?” Carlos questioned. “Well, it wouldn’t to you, city boy,” Walker said. Carlos considered, “I wouldn’t mind if I was with someone who looked like Alex,” he decided. Walker feigned a kick to his head, “Watch it,” he told him. “You know, I wouldn’t mind a break, I could sure use one,” Trent said. “Same here,” Carlos added. Walker stood there not sure what to do or say as the two men invited themselves along.

Later, he was with Trivette and he told him about his and Alex’s trip. He was trying to get his advice on how to ‘uninvite’ Carlos and Trent, when Trivette jumped in, “You invited Carlos and Trent and you didn’t invite me? I can’t believe it man, I thought we were partners!” “We are, Trivette, I was trying…” “Oh, you were trying to invite me too! Well, sure, I’d love to go! You should have asked me in the first place,” Trivette said. Walker heaved a huge sigh, rolled his eyes and just drove on in silence trying to figure out how he was going to break it to Alex that their ‘getaway’ was now a ‘group’ affair.

Alex took it better than he expected, but she wasn’t thrilled. “I can’t believe it, Walker. Couldn’t you have just said that we were going away to be alone?” “Sure, if you wanted me to announce that to them,” he said. “I could care less if you did. We’re engaged to be married for heaven’s sake!” “Alex… I thought we agreed to be discreet.” It was Alex’s turn to roll her eyes. “Fine, Walker, but don’t complain to me if ‘the guys’ get in the way of our ‘alone time,’” she warned.

Trent borrowed his mother’s oversized SUV for the trip. He hated to leave his Corvette for her to drive, but there was no way the whole group could fit in any of their own vehicles comfortably. He picked up Carlos and then Trivette. They headed out to Walker’s ranch where they were to have dinner and then head out. Alex was late getting off from work Thursday evening. She had a lot to tend to in order to take a full week plus an extra Friday off. She left the office exhausted and still had to go home to put her suitcase in the car and take care of a few last minute chores at home.

Walker was barbecuing hamburgers for everyone and when the other three men arrived, they put together a meal fit for a ‘man’. They used paper products so there would be no dishes and made oversized hamburgers with fries and coleslaw to go along. They were all sitting outside at the picnic table when Alex finally arrived. They all greeted her warmly and Walker offered her some dinner. She took one look at the hamburger he had made for her and cut it in half and plopped the other half back on his plate. She was known for her healthy appetite, but there was no way she was up to that challenge.

All four men were in a jovial mood and despite her fatigue, Alex found herself smiling at the put downs and jokes that were bandied back and forth between them. They had decided to drive down at night so that they wouldn’t waste a day of vacation. They figured that with each of them taking a turn driving, no one would arrive too tired to have a good time. Alex cleaned up the kitchen while the guys cleaned up the grill and eating area. Her bag was thrown in the back of the SUV along with the others and Trent and Carlos decided to take the first shifts driving.

Alex sat in the back between Walker and Trivette and leaned back against the seat, her hand clasped in Walker’s. She listened to the men argue about the best hiking boots, the best fishing bait, the best places to hike and all sorts of other things. She couldn’t summon the energy to join in and felt her body drifting as Trent got onto the freeway and they sailed through the night, away from all the responsibilities of their everyday lives and toward relaxation and adventure.

Walker wasn’t a man to pout, but he came darn near close to it as they began the trip. He kept thinking that if he and Alex had been alone, they would have spent the night making love and then driven up early the next morning, talking about everything under the sun. He missed being able to just talk to Alex and share his thoughts and feelings with her. It wasn’t just their sex life that had suffered these last several months, their entire relationship had been put on hold. Walker stroked Alex’s fingers and had to smile at himself. What would the other guys think if they knew that he wished they weren’t there so that he could talk about his feelings with Alex? It was lucky no one in the car was a mind reader.

Walker looked over at his fiancée and realized that she had fallen asleep and if she continued in the position she was in, she would wake up with a terrible neck ache. He shifted around to face her and pulled her back into his arms. He leaned back against the car door and cradled her against him. It wasn’t long before his head was resting against the silkiness of hers and he too was sound asleep.

Trivette looked over and grinned to himself. Walker never fell asleep so quickly or so easily. Alex definitely had a soothing effect on the savage beast. He warned Trent and Carlos about their friends being asleep and he too grabbed some shut eye until he was called upon to drive.

Trent drove until he had to stop for gas. He then rotated into the back and let Carlos drive while Jimmy rode shotgun. One final stop, just before dawn, brought Carlos into the back and had Jimmy driving with Trent riding shotgun. The three men marveled at how the other two in the back continued to sleep through all the stops and starts. Little did they know that it was being in each other’s arms that made them oblivious to their surroundings. They hadn’t been so close for so long in weeks and their subconscious minds were unwilling to relinquish the chance to be together.

When they finally arrived at the lodge where they planned to begin and end their vacation, Jimmy hopped out of the driver’s seat and began clicking pictures right away. Trent and Carlos got out and stretched. Trent went to the back to unload their bags. Walker had awoken an hour before they arrived, but he stayed snuggled with Alex. He waited until the others were out of the vehicle before attempting to wake Alex. He kissed the top of her head and then down the side of her face, nibbling on her ear. “Just five more minutes,” she pleaded. “Alex…” “No, it can wait,” she insisted, still muddled from sleep. Walker checked to make sure that no one could see him and then he reached up and tugged on the zipper at the front of her shirt. It slid down slowly and his fingers played across her breasts as it continued down. “You just can’t wait, can you, Cowboy?” Alex asked as she opened her eyes for the first time.

Alex was instantly on the alert. She could hear the voices of Carlos and Trent as they argued about whom had the heaviest pack and Jimmy was exclaiming over the beauty of the place. “Walker!” she scolded as she realized that they were far from alone. He chuckled in her ear, “Don’t wear an ‘easy access’ shirt if you don’t want me to ‘access’ it.” Her hands flew up to pull the zipper tab back up to a respectable level. “I do want you to ‘access’, just not here and now!” she scolded. She turned to face Walker and his eyes went down to her pert nipples that showed her instant response to the caress of his hands. “Now look what you’ve done,” she scolded him again. Walker laughed, “I am looking,” he said and then kissed her soft lips.

He got out of the vehicle first and tugged her along after him. Alex wondered if she could use the morning chill as an excuse for what her molded shirt made obvious to one and all. She decided not to chance it and she draped her arms around Walker’s neck and gave him a side hug, effectively hiding what she didn’t want others to see. After teasing Carlos about ‘water bug biscuits and tree frog chili’, the gang carried their bags into the lodge.

The desk clerk checking them in looked at the group with an odd expression. Four men and one woman made a rather unusual grouping. He checked their reservation and said, “I have two double rooms with an adjoining door and one full-sized room for single occupancy. “Yes, that’s right,” Walker spoke up. “And how will you be paying for this?” he asked. “I’m putting one of the double rooms on my card,” Carlos said as he whipped out his credit card. “I’ll pay you back,” Trent promised. Carlos waved him away. “I’ve got the other,” Trivette said, pulling out his card. “I’ll catch the next one,” Walker told Trivette. Trivette gave him a look that clearly said, ‘I’ve heard that before.’ “And I’ve got the single,” Alex said, as she pulled her card out as well. Walker pulled Alex back away from the others while the desk clerk ran the credit cards. “I’ll pay you back for my share of the room later,” he whispered in her ear. “I’ll take it out in trade for services rendered,” she told him. “Alex!” he said in a loud whisper, feigning shock.

After the check in, they headed up to their rooms and Walker insisted on carrying Alex’s bag up to her room for her. No sooner had the door closed behind them than he grabbed her up to press her close and he began kissing her. He loved the feel and taste of her and he was like a man starving and unable to become satiated. Alex returned his ardor and the knock on the door broke them apart suddenly. “Hey guys, let’s go check this place out!” Carlos hollered through the closed door. Alex raised her eyebrows at Walker and said, “You’re fault,” in a hushed whisper.

Walker opened the door to find all three men ready to go exploring. “You guys go ahead, I want to unpack.” “We’re leaving tomorrow,” Trent said, uncertain why she would want to unpack for just one night. “Yes, but I packed in a rush and I want to check that I didn’t forget anything vital,” she explained. The truth was; she wanted to pull out the special nightwear that she had brought along and put it away until the night. She also wanted to relax in her room for a bit, she didn’t feel the need to rush right out to explore her surroundings. The guys finally agreed to head on out without her.

After going through what she had brought, Alex decided that she wanted to go shopping to see if there was anything she found appealing. She didn’t have anything special in mind, but it was rare these days that she just got to go browsing through shops and stop and admire things that caught her eye. She headed out and ran into the men as they emerged from the sports center. She invited them to go shopping with her, but wasn’t surprised when they didn’t take her up on it. She didn’t mind that Walker preferred bike riding with the guys to shopping with her, but he was hers after the sun went down and the others better realize that and steer clear, she decided.

She tried on several different outfits in a small clothing store that catered to tourists. She was unaware of the two men watching her through the window as she put on shoes to match an outfit she was seriously considering buying, as she checked her appearance out in the mirror. She decided to make the purchase and then headed out to try the next store that had women’s hiking wear on display. She ended up finding a pair of pants and shirt with a zip up vest to go with it and decided that she would wear it the next day to begin their hike.

The group all met for an early supper and then decided to check out the local night life. Trent and Carlos went off to play pool, Trivette went off to hit on women and Walker and Alex danced. It was the first time they had been able to get away from the others since early that morning in her room and they stayed on the floor song after song so as not to have to socialize with anyone but each other.

Alex teased Walker, “Any ideas of how to ditch our chaperones?” “After driving all night and half the day, I can’t imagine they’ll want to do anything but go to bed early tonight. Trivette always falls asleep the instant his head hits the pillow, so as soon as that happens, I’ll sneak out and come to your room.” “And what if I’m asleep by then?” “Then I’ll wake you up,” he said. Alex laughed at him, “You better take my room key with you.”

They danced a bit more, unaware of the others in the room, including the men who gazed intently at Alex. She pulled back from him slightly and said, “I can’t tell you how much I’ve been looking forward to this.” “Well, you’ve been working hard, you deserve it.” Alex laughed, knowing that he meant more than her job at the DA’s office. She kissed him and then leaned back in close as he two-stepped her around the room.

A bit later, Alex was forced to excuse herself. “Excuse me, my dear,” she said with a smile. She kissed him and he watched as she walked away, thinking that she filled out her slacks as well as she filled out the top. He then went over to harass Trivette and told some women he was trying to impress that Trivette cleaned out septic tanks for a living. Trivette stood there with his mouth open, trying to do damage control and promising himself that he would get revenge.

Walker turned and walked toward the bar to wait for Alex. He saw her come out and three large, dirty-looking men approached her. Walker’s blood boiled when the largest man grabbed Alex’s arm.

Dwight, Luke, and Buddy Trammel had come to town and Luke had become smitten with Alex through the store front window. He told his brother Dwight that he wanted her and Dwight told him that he could have her. These weren’t men who asked for what they wanted, they just took it. Dwight insisted that Alex dance with Luke, despite her assertion that she didn’t want to dance. Alex was trying to extricate herself from Dwight’s grip and the situation, when Walker arrived on the scene.

“Let her go,” Walker ordered as he grasped the man’s arm that held Alex and stared him straight in the eyes. “This ain’t your dang business, Cowboy,” Dwight told him. “She’s with me, so it is my business. Now let her go,” Walker demanded. Dwight let go of her arm and Alex slid back behind Walker. “What if I said if you don’t get your butt back over there, I’m going to kick your Cowboy butt back over there?” Dwight threatened. Walker stared him down, “I’d say start kicking.” “Oh, really?” Dwight answered, more than ready to fight. Alex slid her hand around Walker’s arm and gently tugged him away, “Walker, let’s just go.” “Ain’t that cute,” Dwight taunted, “let’s get it on.” Walker turned back to face his nemesis. “Get back, Alex,” he directed, not about to back down from this bully. Trivette, Trent and Carlos all lined up with Walker to face down the three Trammel brothers. Walker stood there sizing them up and noting the knife strapped to Dwight’s leg.

Before any punches could be thrown, the sheriff intervened and told the Trammel’s to get out. Walker introduced himself and the others. He asked Sheriff Chandler who the men were and he told him that the Trammel brother’s had a cabin in the woods somewhere, but no one had ever seen it. Alex confessed that she didn’t want to run into them again and the sheriff promised to keep an eye on them.

Trent challenged Carlos to a rematch and they went back to the pool table. The woman Trivette had been trying to impress called him over, “Oh, Ranger Trivette, I thought you were going to tell us about Bonnie and Clyde,” she said with an inviting smile. Trivette looked at Walker, “Septic tank,” he said with a look of disgust. Walker turned away with a huge smile and Alex looked at him suspiciously. “What did you do?” she asked. “I didn’t do anything,” he said as he wrapped his arm around Alex’s shoulders pulling her into his side. She looked up at him, not believing him for an instant, “Ha,” she said. “Honest,” he told her. “Haaa,” she answered, still not buying it.

He guided her over to the bar where he ordered them each a beer. “You’re gonna put me to sleep for sure,” Alex protested. He looked at her and then at the bartender, “Make that one beer and one iced tea,” he amended. He felt Alex chuckle against his side, there wasn’t a hair’s breadth between them.

They took their drinks to a table in the corner and sat at the two person table as far away from the noise and people as possible. “I’ve missed you,” Walker said as Alex took a gulp of her tea to replenish the fluids she’d lost dancing with him for over an hour. “Trust me, darling, I’ve missed you just as much.” “Alex, I’m glad that you started HOPE House, I really am. And I’m glad that it’s done so well…” “It’s certainly surpassed all of my hopes and expectations,” she inserted. “I know, but honey, we have to find a way to spend more time together.” “Feeling neglected, Cowboy?” “Yes, ma’am,” he said with a sheepish grin. Alex felt her heart melt.

Alex placed her hand over his and looked deeply into his eyes. “You are my number one priority. I love you and I want nothing more than to spend every moment with you, but if I lose myself in you, well…” “You lose yourself?” She smiled, not surprised that he understood her. “Yes, I guess that’s it. I want to join with you and bring something to this relationship; I don’t want to just be another appendage.” Walker actually laughed at this. “Alex, you could never be that. You are such an individual that I think we’re going to have problems melding together, not in losing our own identities.” Alex’s face got a coy look, “We’ve never had problems ‘melding’ before,” she said. He narrowed his eyes at her, “I thought this was a serious conversation.” She tried to look apologetic, but failed miserably.

“Darling, I’m absolutely serious when I tell you that I want you so badly that it hurts to breathe.” The color rose in Walker’s cheeks and he was just about to answer, when Trent and Carlos walked up to the table. “Hi guys, what’s up?” Trent asked. Walker turned and gave him the same look he’d given that Dwight Trammel guy. Trent nearly stuttered, “Well, we-we just came to say goodnight, we’re going to turn in.” Carlos was glad that he hadn’t spoken, he’d seen the look. “Yeah, we’re out of here, goodnight,” he added and waved as Walker tried to recompose his face and wish them a goodnight. Alex told them to sleep well and then slapped Walker lightly on the hand, “You scared them half to death,” she scolded him. “Good, that’s what they get for inviting themselves along to begin with.”

Carlos waited until he was out of earshot of the table and then said, “Man, if looks could kill.” “I know; you’d be planning my funeral. Alex and Walker are always so good about just being part of the gang, that sometimes I forget they’re a couple.” “Well, I doubt that you’ll forget it again,” Carlos said with a chuckle. “You got that right!” They headed on back to the lodge and to bed.

As the evening grew later, the music slowed and the lights dimmed. Walker asked Alex to dance again and she floated in his arms as they circled the floor swaying to the sensual music. Alex’s head rested on Walker’s shoulder and she turned her nose into his neck to inhale his scent. Anticipation was great, but this was killing her! She felt as if they were back to dating, with only limited touching allowed. Walker held Alex close, but his eyes kept darting to Trivette and when he finally left, Walker danced her around one more time and then guided her out the door.

They walked out into the brisk night air, but neither felt the chill. Walking arm in arm, they crossed back over to the lodge and Walker escorted her to her room. Once there, Alex opened the door and invited him in, but Walker shook his head. “No, I better not or I’ll never be able to leave.” “Well, that would sort of be the idea,” she answered. “I need to go back to the room and wait for Trivette to fall asleep,” he said. “Walker, you’re being ridiculous. Jimmy must have figured out by now that we’re lovers!” “Maybe, but I don’t want to confirm it. I want everyone to have the highest opinion of you and I don’t want tongues wagging over our private love life.” Alex didn’t know if she should just strangle him and get it over with or what, the man drove her crazy! “Well then, tell him that I was nervous after that run in with those goons and I didn’t feel safe alone.” Walker looked at her, “And he’s supposed to believe that?” “Who cares if he does? It gives you a legitimate excuse to stay.” “I’ll be back soon, I promise.” Alex just stepped back and slammed the door in his face, the man was infuriating!

Walker headed back to his room and found that Trivette was just getting there as well. “Hi partner, you’re back early,” Trivette said. “What’s that supposed to mean?” Walker asked irritably. Trivette shrugged, “Just making an observation. If I was out with a pretty lady like Alex, I’d have lingered as long as she’d let me. Or is that it? Did she kick you out?” Trivette was having fun. “We’re getting up at the crack of dawn tomorrow and I wanted to get some sleep,” Walker told him grudgingly. Trivette didn’t buy it for a second.

“Gosh, I’m not even tired, how about a game of chess?” Walker stared at him, “No,” he said in no uncertain terms. “Oh, well, okay, I guess I’ll see what’s on TV.” Walker made a disgusted sound and went into the bathroom to shower. He emerged hoping to find Trivette already asleep, but Jimmy was determined to make Walker pay for that remark he’d made about the septic tank, so he’d all but glued his eyes open. There was absolutely nothing on except infomercials. He’d flipped through several times and he’d toyed with the idea of ordering the porn channel just to really set Walker off, but warred with himself about just how mean he wanted to be.

Finally, with a grin of pure evil, he decided to do just that. He waited until Walker was in the bed and then he pushed the buttons to order the porn video playing. Walker was feigning sleep when the unmistakable sounds of people having sex came from the television. Walker nearly leapt out of the bed. “What the hell?!!” he bellowed. Trivette jumped sky high. He’d expected a reaction, but that wasn’t it! “What the hell are you watching?” Walker demanded to know. “There wasn’t anything on but infomercials,” Trivette tried to defend himself. “Well, that garbage has got to go!” Walker said through gritted teeth. “Geez, all right man, don’t get your shorts in a wad,” Trivette said. He quickly turned the television off and lay down to try and convince Walker that he was asleep.

As soon as Trivette’s breathing became regular, Walker jumped out of bed, pulled on a pair of sweat pants and headed barefoot and bare-chested down the hall. Jimmy lay in the bed giggling to himself. He’d done it! He’d gotten Walker back! He’d gotten him so hot and bothered that he’d practically sprinted down to Alex’s room. Basking in the glory of winning major points against Walker, he fell asleep with a grin plastered on his face.

Walker knocked lightly on Alex’s door. He had meant to take her key with him, but he’d forgotten to ask for it when she’d slammed the door in his face. He’d been longer than he’d expected and he stood there hoping that she wasn’t asleep. A couple dressed up in nice clothes came down the hall and gave him an odd look. He waited until they went into their room and then knocked a little harder. Two women came off the elevator and looked him up and down. Wearing nothing but his sweat pants, it was clear to all that he was a fine specimen of a man. “Sweetie, if she won’t open up, you’re welcome to share our room,” one of the women said. Walker’s eyes grew round and his cheeks grew red and he all but pounded on Alex’s door.

He was about to turn and head back to his own room when a thought struck him, he didn’t have a key to it either! Now his options were to stand out here in the hall or go down to the lobby and ask for a key. ‘But which room key should I ask for?’ he wondered. He decided to pound one more time. A man opened the room across the hall, “Hey buddy, people are trying to sleep around here,” he said irritably. Thankfully, Alex opened the door at that moment. She stood there, clearly having been woken up from a deep sleep. She was wearing one of the most revealing negligees Walker had ever seen. The man across the hall got an eyeful as well and suddenly didn’t mind having been woken up. “Wow,” he said as he looked at the beautiful woman with the tousled hair. “Hey buddy, my apologies, bang away!” he said. Walker grabbed Alex, propelling her backwards into the room and closed the door behind them.

“Walker, what are you doing?” Alex asked. “I told you I’d be back. Who were you wearing that for if not me?” Alex looked down at her attire, “Oops,” she said. “Yes oops, so much for discretion. Two women in the hall made me feel like I was a piece of meat on display and you gave that man across the hall quite an eyeful. What the hell were you doing opening the door dressed like that anyway? It could have been anyone out there banging on the door. You didn’t even ask.” “I was asleep; I didn’t know what I was doing.” “Well, there is no excuse. What if those cretins we met tonight had been out there?” “Walker?” “What?” “Did you come down here dressed like that to give me safety tips?” she asked.

Walker stopped and thought and realized that he was taking out all of his frustrations in the wrong way. “God no, I came to…” he grabbed her up off the ground and held her in his arms as he strode to the bed and dropped her down in the middle of it. “This is very pretty,” he said, “but we don’t need it, do we?” He peeled the straps down her shoulders and pulled it down over her body, revealing her breasts, her abdomen, and on down until he had it at her feet and tugged it the rest of the way off before flinging it aside. He then slipped out of his sweat pants and briefs and climbed onto the bed, straddling her.

Pulling her legs apart, Walker lay in the cradle of them and pressed her down into the bed as he captured her mouth with his and kissed her so hard that her lips were nearly bruised. Alex responded immediately and dug her nails into his shoulders as he moved from her mouth down to her aching breasts. Mouthing these roughly, he pulled up to the sound of her groan and then plunged deeply into her moistness. Alex cried out at the completion of her body as it joined to his, just as it had been made to.

Walker wasted no time establishing a rhythm and he pumped deeply into her, quick punishing pumps that she encouraged as she kissed any part of his torso she could reach. Flinging his head back, Walker cried out as he spilled himself into her. “No!” Alex cried as he came before her body had time to. Walker collapsed onto her, but didn’t pull out. He lay there panting for a minute and then said, “I’m sorry, baby. I’ll take you there, just be patient.” “I’ve been patient! I’m all out of patience!” she cried as she dug her fingers into his hair and yanked his head back.

This time, it was Alex who clamped down on his mouth. She bit his lower lip, just hard enough to hurt and Walker felt his body respond to her wildcat approach immediately. He pulled up enough that he could fasten onto her nipples and suckled them the way he knew she liked. Deep draws into his mouth and then a swirling of his rough tongue on the sensitive peaks. He reached down between their joined bodies and placed his thumb on her sensitive nub and rubbed it while applying pressure. “God, Walker, please!!!!” she begged as she rolled her hips up to him. “Patience, darling…” he reminded her. She bit his shoulder and scraped lines down his back with her nails. Walker chuckled and began to thrust in and out of her, concentrating on her and letting her set the pace.

Alex was so frantic to find release that she bucked against him as if she was a novice. She thrashed her head from side to side, trying to find that elusive orgasm. Walker pinned her to the bed, halting her movements and she whimpered. “Hush,” he soothed her and then began a slow, deep motion that brought her inexorably closer to the edge. Once he knew that she was all but there, he bent down, kissed her swollen lips and then drew her nipple deep into his mouth and gently bit down. Alex screamed out her orgasm as it took her in waves.

Walker, not having yet reached his second climax, continued the torturous thrusting that extended her orgasm until her entire lower pelvic area was clamped down so hard on him that he almost couldn’t move. He eased himself in and out, her nerves firing as fast as they possibly could. Alex knew that the pleasure would soon turn to pain at this rate and she reached up and clamped down on his nipple, tugging on it and then biting down until he too cried out in release.

The two lovers curled up together and fell into a deep contented sleep. It was two hours later before Walker woke and began a slow subtle seduction. This joining was soft and sweet, the kisses punctuated as often by ‘I love you’s as by gasps and moans of pleasures. They made love long into the night; the sun was just peaking when they joined for the last time.

“That will have to last us six days,” Walker said with true regret. “There’s no way it will last that long, trust me. There’s nothing for it, Trent, Carlos and Jimmy are going to have to be pushed off a cliff.” Walker laughed, “You’re a wicked woman.” “Yep,” she agreed happily. She hated to let him go, but his desire to return to his room before Trivette woke up made it impossible to persuade him to stay longer.

“Alex, did you bring one of my shirts with you?” he asked, knowing her habit of sleeping in them. “Yes,” she answered. “Good, I’m going to borrow it back. That way I’ll look more respectable when I go to the lobby to get the room key.” “You came here without your room key?” “I know, not one of my brighter moves.” “Some Texas Ranger you are,” she teased him. Walker flipped her suddenly, pinning her hands up above her head onto the bed. “Take it back,” he threatened. “Uh uh,” she said with a shake of her head and a gleam in her eye. “Take it back or…” “Or what?” Walker leaned down to her chest and began to drag his bearded chin down her chest, over her breasts and then on down to the smooth skin of her abdomen where he began a side to side motion that tickled unmercifully. “Stop, stop!” she cried. “Take it back,” he said as he continued his assault. “Okay, I’m sorry, I take it back!” she cried through gales of laughter and tears.

Walker stopped and looked up at her pouting face. He reached forward, sucked her lower lip in and bit it lightly. “Don’t tempt me with that lower lip,” he warned. “The shirt’s in the second drawer,” Alex told him. He grinned at her, kissed her once more and then released her wrists and rolled off the bed. He pulled on his sweats and rifled through the drawer until he found the shirt. Alex sat up in bed on her elbows, her breasts exposed as the sheet lay somewhere down near the bottom of the bed. “Don’t mess up my clothes!” she complained. “Alex, we’re going hiking and camping. You’re going to stuff them in a backpack, how much more wrinkled can I make them?” “Just get out you rat,” she told him.

Walker came back over to the bed. “Still calling me names and insulting me, huh? Haven’t you learned your lesson Ms. Cahill?” Alex’s eyes narrowed in warning at him, daring him to touch her. “I think you’re just trying to provoke me to stay and make love to you again.” “Yeah, that’s right. I’m a sex crazed lunatic and I can’t get enough of you. Careful on your way out, your head might not fit through the door frame.” Walker laughed at her; he loved it when she was ornery. Mornings were definitely not her best time. “I love you, Alex. I’ll see you in an hour, don’t be late,” he warned as he reached down for a quick kiss and let himself out of her room.

He was lucky in that he seemed the only lodge guest up at that time of the morning. He asked for his room key and the desk clerk didn’t ask for an explanation when he handed it over. Not that he didn’t want to, but he decided it wouldn’t be a prudent move, even in a t-shirt; Walker’s physique was clearly bulging. He let himself into the room and then hit the showers, hoping the sound of running water would wake up his partner. It didn’t, but the glass of ice cold water he dumped on his head did. “What?!!” Trivette shouted as he jumped up from the bed. “Time to get up,” Walker said casually and then started to put his hiking gear in his back pack. The group was planning to leave most of their stuff in storage at the lodge and hike only with the essentials. “Walker!!” Trivette said, unable to form the words he wanted to say. Walker watched as Trivette headed on into the bathroom. “Payback’s a bitch, partner,” Walker muttered. He’d already figured out what Trivette had been up to the night before. He didn’t want to take a chance on letting him get ahead in their constant rivalry.

Walker picked up the phone while Trivette showered and called Trent and Carlos to make sure they were up and moving. As expected, Trent was and Carlos was stirring with a little prompting from his friend. He then called Alex, who had expected the call. “You about ready?” he asked her. “Well, I’m out of the shower and if you don’t mind me going hiking without the benefit of clothing, then I guess I’m ready,” she told him sarcastically. “Trivette’s not dressed yet either, so you have a few minutes to throw something on,” he told her. Most of Alex’s gear was packed in Walker’s pack and she was going to carry a lightweight pack that contained a change of clothes and a sleeping bag and a few other essentials. Walker wouldn’t let her carry more because of her gunshot injury. It was healed, but if she carried anything heavy, it started to ache.

A half hour later, the gang carried down their spare luggage and put it into the locked storage room the lodge offered just for this occasion. They all grouped outside in a clearing, adjusting the straps on their packs and doing some light stretching before heading out. Alex offered to go get them all some coffee before they began. Trent and Walker had each had coffee while waiting for the others, so Trent declined. She went into the small coffee shop and ordered three regular coffees and one low fat, decaffeinated latte for Trivette who didn’t like regular coffee. She also picked up some croissants that were fresh baked and smelling good.

As she headed through the wooded area back to where the guys were, she ran into the Trammel brothers. Alex knew immediately that she was in trouble and wished that she’d insisted Walker accompany her. Alex threw the hot coffee at them and tried to run, but they caught her easily and she was suffocating from that trapped feeling. It was a feeling she still woke up to when she dreamt of Victor LaRue. On those nights, if Walker wasn’t lying in the bed beside her, she called him on the phone. He always talked her through it and often had driven out to comfort her. She hated having to rely on his strength to get her through, but she had accepted that she needed him to help her deal with the consuming fear the nightmares generated. She also needed him now.

Alex was able to take her first deep breath when Sheriff Chandler arrived on the scene. He ordered the Trammels to release her, but Dwight turned and flung his knife at the sheriff, piercing his heart and killing him before his body hit the ground. Alex began to scream, but Dwight punched her in the face and knocked her unconscious. One of the brothers threw her over his shoulder in a fireman’s lift and they headed out toward a trail few knew about that led away from the tourists and marked hiking trails.

Walker decided that Alex was taking quite awhile and went looking for her. When he found the sheriff dead, with Dwight’s knife sticking out from his chest and the empty coffee cups on the ground, he knew that the Trammel brother’s had Alex. It wasn’t long before Trent, Carlos, and Trivette joined him and they quickly went into crisis mode. Carlos went to notify the local PD, Trivette and Trent took their packs back to the lodge and asked the bell captain to lock them up. They kept out the essentials and then headed back out to join up with Walker. Walker stayed with the body, scouring the area for clues. As soon as Trivette and Trent arrived, he went on up to track where their trail led. He circled back to meet Carlos who had arrived with two of the sheriff’s deputies.

“I’m Deputy Tate,” the older of the men introduced himself to Walker. “I’m sorry about Sheriff Chandler,” Walker told him. Tate nodded, “How do you know it was the Trammels?” “I saw Dwight Trammel wearing that knife last night.” Tate nodded again; the sheriff had filled him in on the previous night’s incident. “We’ll get a search party organized and head out looking for her. I can get some tracking dogs here in a couple hours tops.” “We don’t have a couple hours. No one knows this mountain like they do and they know how to disguise their trail. I’ve already seen two places where they tried to throw anybody following them off.” “Well, if we go off half-cocked, we’re likely to make mistakes.” “I’ll tell you what Tate, you get together your search team and start out when you can. I’m going to look for my fiancée now.” “I really advise against that,” he started to object, but one look into Walker’s eyes told him his argument was falling on deaf ears. “We’ll be right behind you,” he promised. Walker doubted it, these Trammels were clever mountain men and they knew every trick in the book. It was going to take an experienced tracker to find them and he was undoubtedly the most qualified around.

The four men set off at a brisk pace. Walker took them to where he had followed the trail to and picked it up there. “They’re carrying her,” he told them. None of the men questioned his statement, and no one asked him how he knew. Walker’s full concentration was on the trail. Trent was looking out for possible booby traps, Trivette was keeping his eyes peeled for unfriendly wildlife, and Carlos was just keeping up with the group and staying quiet. This was not his element. If they were in a street fight, he would be more useful, but here, he was the novice and he knew it.

As the Trammels began the assent up the mountainside, Alex began to struggle and demanded to be put down. Dwight warned her that even though she was pretty, she had better ‘shut up’ and ‘keep up.’ Alex knew that at this point in time, she didn’t have a choice, so she walked along quietly. At one point, they stopped for a water break and Alex tried to reason with them and told them that she was an assistant district attorney, but that meant nothing to them. Dwight punched her in the solar plexus, causing her to gasp for air as the wind was knocked out of her. He made his point and they continued the climb.

The further up the four men went, the easier it was to spot the trail of Alex and the Trammels. Trent, a former army instructor in hand to hand combat, was not unfamiliar with tracking skills. He noted aloud, “You’d think they’d be more careful about disguising their trail.” Walker, crouched down examining the tracks said, “They’re not worried about us.” Trivette piped in, “That was their first mistake.” Walker answered, “No, they’re first mistake was taking Alex.” They headed off, picking up their pace.

Alex was surprised to find a trailer parked deep in the woods. That is until she saw the crop growing under camouflage nets. They had come across a marijuana farm and the men around them aimed their rifles directly at them. She froze and waited to see what would happen, but Dwight knew what he was doing and he had come to collect his supply of marijuana. Leo, the leader of the growers, offered Dwight a lifetime supply of ‘whacky weed’ in exchange for Alex. Dwight considered it, but Luke spoke up and said that she wasn’t for sale. Alex wasn’t sure whether to breathe a sigh of relief or not. She overheard Dwight tell Leo that he’d give her to him when they got tired of her. She wondered how long that would take.

Heading further up the mountain, Alex stopped for a moment and looked back. She knew that Walker was coming for her, she could feel him. She stood for a minute, concentrating on his face, his smell, the sound of his voice. She called out with her heart, trying to tell him that she loved him and that she trusted him. She knew that he would rescue her from these sorry results of inbreeding. Luke shoved her and broke her from her trance as she turned to head on up the mountain, hoping that the warning she’d sent to Walker about the danger ahead had somehow reached him.

Walker and the gang found themselves suddenly surrounded by men holding guns. Things looked grim, but Walker took advantage of the situation to get some questions answered. He asked how far ahead the Trammels were and found that they were only an hour behind. He also asked where they lived and Leo told him that they had a cabin in a valley on the south side of the mountain. Leo didn’t mind sharing this information; he planned on killing all four men anyway. He didn’t count on Walker’s quick feet and his speed and agility. The others jumped in quickly, disarming and subduing his small gang.

After tying the marijuana farmers to the trees so that they couldn’t escape, Walker continued his pursuit of Alex and her abductors. They hiked all through the night, having to go slowly to spot the footprints in the dark and not miss the trail. Walker warred between wishing they would stop and fearing what they would do to Alex if they did stop and he couldn’t get there in time. It was clear at daybreak that they hadn’t taken more than short rests.

Alex was glad to see the sunrise. Walker had been trying to get her to appreciate its beauty enough to get up and watch it more often, but she hadn’t complied. This sunrise was beautiful, but it was marred by the circumstances she found herself in. She was tired and she was hungry. The Trammels were carrying supplies back to their cabin, but they hadn’t stopped to eat. They only drank the water they carried and chewed on beef jerky. Every so often, they would offer her some water, but that was all.

Walker and his friends were dropping further back. The marijuana farmers slowed them down and the dark contributed too. They had to be careful to ensure that they weren’t going off the wrong way, as it was hard to follow the trail with just flashlights. Just before daybreak, they stopped to take what was their first rest. They ate the energy bars from their belts and drank down water. Walker sat wondering if Alex had had anything to eat. The hiking was wearing enough, coupled with the emotional stress and no food; she’d be in pretty bad shape when he finally got to her. He never doubted for a moment that he would get to her.

Alex and the Trammels reached the crest of the mountain. There was a pristine lake below and Alex fantasized about jumping in and washing all the sweat and grime off of her. She stood at the top looking down, vainly trying to spot Walker, sure that he was coming after her. Dwight Trammel had binoculars and he spotted them. “That Cowboy of yours is better than I thought.” Nothing could prevent the smile that graced Alex’s lips. Walker was coming, he would best the Trammels and she would spend the night in his arms. She was certain.

She was less certain when she saw the trap the Trammels laid for him. They stacked a pile of boulders and set a trip wire so that it would come down on the guys. Alex decided to be optimistic and to believe that Walker would get through it. She sat on a rock, waiting for them to finish their booby trap and wishing that she could think of some way to warn Walker. Dwight kept a close eye on her though and she knew that he would discover any attempt to warn Walker.

Walker was relieved when, after a brisk pace set at sunrise, he found evidence that they weren’t far behind the Trammels. They were now in a clear area at the top of the mountain and they picked up speed. It was easier to track the others without the underbrush they had battled in the woods. The trick now was to catch up with them before they had the cover of the woods again on the other side. He pushed the pace up a notch.

Alex sat on the rock and tried in vain to see Walker. She wished that she could use the binoculars; a glimpse of him would help her enormously right now. Dwight came over to her and said, “Only one law means anything out here, the law of survival.” Alex couldn’t hide her disgust as she answered, “When Walker gets through with you, you’ll wish you hadn’t survived.” Dwight grabbed a handful of her hair and tugged her head back. “Smart mouth of yours is gonna be real painful.”

Despite being on the lookout for booby traps, Trent missed the trip wire and Carlos stumbled over it. Trivette was in the rear and saw what was happening and pushed Carlos out of the way, but took a boulder to his chest. The others escaped injury, but Trivette was seriously injured. Walker made the call to have Carlos help him back down the mountain while he and Trent went after Alex.

Alex was almost relieved when she saw the cabin the Trammel’s took her to, her endurance was diminishing. She was appalled though when two women came out of the cabin and stood with their eyes down in a submissive manner awaiting orders. Dwight ordered them to take her into the cabin and make her ‘presentable.’  They guided her indoors and she asked them what they were doing there. Both had been kidnapped and had been there for two years, ever since the Trammels had decided to become true ‘mountain men’ and leave society and their long criminal pasts behind.

They gave Alex water to drink and also a piece of bread slathered with butter to eat. They didn’t often get butter, but there was some in the pack of food Luke had thrust at them. They offered Alex a simple homemade dress to wear, but she was appalled at how they did the Trammel’s bidding. “Haven’t you tried to escape?” she asked them. “Yes we have,” Sally answered. They looked at each other and then Sally and Vanessa turned to show her the scars on their backs from the horsewhipping they had received after they had been recaptured. They also told Alex of the third woman, the one she was replacing. Terry had died of her wounds, she’d been pregnant at the time and no matter how hard they tried to keep the infection away, her body just couldn’t fight it. Just before she died, she told them that she was happy. She didn’t want to bring another Trammel into the world. She wasn’t even sure which brother had fathered it as they all took turns raping the women repeatedly. Alex’s horror grew with their tales.

Alex changed and went outside to be presented for inspection. She tried to remain docile, but when Dwight insisted that she take off her ring, she told him to go to hell. He had his brothers hold her while he took her ring off, nearly breaking her finger in the process. He then shoved her back toward the house and told the women to make some food.

Walker and Trent pressed on and then they came to a stream and Trent wondered which way they should go. Walker made a decision and they continued on until they saw where the Trammel’s and Alex had gotten out of the stream. They could once again follow the footprints and broken leaves and branches while they tracked Alex. Walker was fairly certain that the Trammels would have their cabin near the stream as their need for water would make it practical. He became even more vigilant looking for booby traps.

Alex watched the Trammels light up the marijuana they had gotten earlier and smoke it. She decided to make a run for it. She knew that her time was running out, chances were that they would eat and then decide to play with their new toy. She wasn’t in the mood to play any of their sick games. If she could just give Walker more time to find her. She decided against telling Vanessa and Sally about the rescue team, she thought that it would be kinder to just wait until they got there. She decided to go out a window and make a run for it. Vanessa didn’t want her to try, but Sally understood the need and let her go. Alex ran as quickly as she could, but the brothers spotted her and captured her.

Walker saw the glint of the crossbow just in time and pushed Trent forward as he dodged back. The arrow narrowly missed his head, but they knew that they were closer than ever. They started forward again when they heard Alex’s screams. Trent held Walker back and got him to start thinking. “We can’t just rush in there, we have to draw them out,” he said. Walker let his anger cool enough for his mind to start working again and nodded his agreement. They went into stealth mode to approach the cabin.

Trent had to grab him back a second time when they saw Alex. She was tied with her hands over her head to a tree. They watched as one of the younger brothers ripped her dress and Dwight snapped the bull whip making a loud cracking noise. Alex was barely able to stand she was so frightened. If her hands hadn’t been tied, she would have fallen to the ground. She bit her lip and whimpered in fear, silently praying for Walker to come. All of her past encounters with LaRue filled her mind, being strapped to a bomb by Kale, all the frightening events in her life culminated in her mind and the one thought that superceded all of her fear was the belief that Walker would rescue her again.

Trent circled around and Walker tossed a smoke flare into the clearing to call the Trammels out. They ordered Vanessa and Sally back into the house and left Alex dangling from the tree. Heading out with shotguns ready, they went in search of Walker and whoever was with him. Trent and Walker took both of the younger brothers out, but Dwight got Trent lined up in his sights. Walker aimed his gun at Dwight and told him to drop his weapon. He gave into his need to beat the man though and when Dwight challenged him, he accepted. They fought a hard fight, but Walker got him in a choke hold and pressed on his windpipe until he was unconscious. “Watch him, I’ve got to free Alex,” he told Trent.

Walker cut the rawhide that bound Alex’s wrists and she turned and melted into his embrace, sobbing out her fear. “It’s all right, Alex, it’s all right,” he repeated over and over again as he held her and stroked her hair. She nodded, not able to mentally process that she was safe. She’d been pushed past her limit, beyond where any person should have to go.

After she was able to stand independently, she nodded to Walker and headed back to the cabin. She needed to reassure Sally and Vanessa. Whatever hell she had endured, theirs had been so much worse; they had had their hope taken from them and their spirits crushed. Walker went back to help Trent tie all the Trammels with their backs to the tree so that they could not move.

Carlos had helped Trivette until Trivette could go no further. He then raced down the mountain as quickly as he could. He ran into one of the search and rescue teams out hunting for them. They had brought dogs, but the Trammels had put down weeds that prevented them from smelling and they had proved useless. They were now searching in a grid pattern and when Carlos found the team, he had them radio in for a chopper. The chopper arrived to pick him up and he guided them to Trivette. Trivette was loaded onto a gurney and airlifted out. Meanwhile, a second chopper was dispatched and since Carlos was able to tell them to look for the Trammels in a valley on the south side of the mountain, they had a smaller search area to cover.

Walker heard a chopper overhead and threw another smoke flare up onto the roof of the cabin to get their attention and guide them in. He went back to Alex and hugged her close as she looked at the men who had tormented her for over thirty hours. She approached Dwight and he looked at her with disgust and said, “What do you want?” She summoned all of her courage and reached into his shirt pocket to retrieve her engagement ring and place it back on her finger; where it belonged. “Bitch,” he spat at her. Alex had been pushed too far. She pulled back and punched him in the face, her famous right hook once again coming in handy. She then stepped back into the curve of Walker’s arm and she and Walker and Trent looked up as the chopped circled looking for a place to land.

The chopper could only hold six total, so Trent volunteered to stay back as Alex, Sally, Vanessa, Walker, and one of the crew, loaded into the chopper with the pilot. Alex had put her own clothes back on and she sat with Walker, seeking his strength and comfort. The helicopter would return for Trent, the second crewman and the Trammels. They would be taken straight to jail.

The chopper landed on top of the hospital and everyone aboard was able to walk off and into exam rooms. Alex declined an exam, but insisted on staying with Vanessa and Sally as they were checked and their families were called to tell them that they had been found and were alive. Both were overwhelmed by the sudden change in their fates and Alex spoke with the hospital psychologist to give her some background so that they could be helped deal with everything going on. Both were in remarkably good condition, despite the ordeal they had lived through. Other than the scars on their backs, the emotional and psychological scars would be the worst. After their families arrived, Alex faded back and went in search of Walker and Trivette.

A nurse guided her to Trivette’s room where he lay with broken ribs and a lung that had been re-inflated through a particularly painful procedure. His prognosis was good though and the doctor said that it would just be a matter of time before he healed and would be as good as new. Carlos had stayed with him throughout and then Walker had joined them. Finally, Alex arrived and right behind her, Trent, who reassured everyone that the Trammels were locked up and would remain so pending a hearing to determine if they would stand trial. With Sally, Vanessa and Alex to testify against them, they stood no chance of acquittal. Alex, after all, had witnessed Dwight murder Sheriff Chandler in cold blood.

The four friends stood around Trivette’s bed, making sure that he was okay. Walker kept his arm firmly around Alex, not sure why she was still upright or how long she would remain that way. She expressed her relief that Vanessa and Sally had been reunited with their families and silently acknowledged that they both had a long road ahead of them. Walker seemed to read her thoughts as he gave her an extra squeeze.

It was Trivette who mentioned the marijuana farmers. Carlos said that Trent had reported them, but Trent denied it. They stood there and realized that each had accomplished their assigned mission, but none had been assigned to inform authorities that they had tied the marijuana farmers to trees more than twenty-four hours before. It was already dark and there was no way they could be found before daylight, so Walker suggested they wait until morning to report where they were. A flash of lightening, heralding an incoming storm, had them all chuckling, realizing that the men tied to the trees were in for a long wet night. Trent and Carlos agreed to guide police to their location early the next morning ― after a hot shower, a hot meal and a good night’s sleep.

Soon after the tension in the room was relieved by the shared laughter of the group realizing they had forgotten the marijuana farmers, a nurse came in to kick them out. Trivette was going to be given an injection for pain and allowed to sleep through the night and the hospital didn’t want him having any visitors until morning. Trent and Carlos went on down to the lobby to get a cab back to the lodge. Walker and Alex stayed a minute longer to thank their friend for all of his help. Walker then guided Alex down the hall to the elevator and down to the lobby where Trent was waiting to escort them to the taxi.

Once they arrived at the lodge, they had to make a dash inside through the downpour. They arrived in the lobby of the lodge, soaking wet. It was now Sunday night and the lodge was all but at capacity. They hadn’t planned to sleep there until the following Thursday night when they thought they would return from their camping trip. The lodge administration was well aware of their ordeal though, as the small resort town was all a buzz with the news. The media had been at the hospital and Carlos had dealt with them there. Trent had also given an abbreviated statement to the press when he helped escort the Trammels to prison.

Being as accommodating as possible, the desk clerk said, “I can give you two rooms. I can put a cot in one for the three of you if you like and then I have one room available for Ms. Cahill here.” “I’ll be staying with my fiancée,” Walker stated, “the cot is unnecessary.” Trent and Carlos both accepted this without question, she’d been through hell and of course Walker wouldn’t leave her alone with her nightmares. Alex, though, was stunned. Was that really Walker announcing in front of God and everybody that he was going to spend the night with her? ‘Will wonders never cease?’ she thought.

The tired foursome was escorted to their rooms and their bags were brought up out of storage. Walker and Alex bid Trent and Carlos goodnight and Alex gave them each a hug, thanking them for being such good friends. Walker gave them each a firm handshake and then guided his fiancée down the hall to their room.

Walker opened the door and led her in and then closed it behind him. It closed with a decisive click and Alex took a deep breath. There were no more excuses to avoid facing what she had been through. “I’m going to take a shower,” she stated and headed for the bathroom. “Want me to scrub your back?” Walker asked, not alluding to anything sexual, just wanting to offer to be there if she wanted him to. She shook her head in the negative and walked into the bathroom, dropping her dirty and damp clothes as she went.

Walker ordered room service and then he took the plastic trash can liner and gathered all of Alex’s clothes. He knew her well enough to know that she would never wear them again. He placed her clothes in the bag and added his shirt and socks that were permanently ruined. When the room service arrived, he allowed the cart to be wheeled in and handed the hotel staff the bag of trash and a tip.

Alex stood under the warm spray for as long as she could. She didn’t think that she would ever get clean. After nearly half an hour, Walker entered the bathroom. He had removed the rest of his clothes and put them in the second trashcan liner. He didn’t want the dank musty smell to remind Alex of her ordeal. He eased the shower curtain back and said, “You sure about that offer to soap your back?” Alex jumped slightly, but realized that she was being selfish, staying in the shower so long and not even inviting him to join her. “Come on in,” she offered. Walker had gone through her bags until he found her shampoo and handed it to her. The hotel offered a sample sized shampoo, but he knew that she would want her own.

The two showered, Alex washing her hair while Walker scrubbed her back as promised. She rinsed off and stepped out, wrapping a towel around her. She found a plush terry robe hanging on the hook behind the door, a courtesy of the hotel. After wrapping it around her and tying the sash, she combed out her wet hair while Walker finished his own shower.

She was blow drying her hair when Walker stepped from the shower drying himself off. He grabbed the second robe and put it on so that they were twins, each wearing a fluffy white terry robe. He combed his hair, brushed his teeth and then walked out into the large room they had been given. This was one of the best rooms the hotel had to offer. It was more expensive than the one they had shared two nights before. The amenities showed the upgrade and the robes were a consequence of this. Walker wheeled the cart over to the small table and set out the dishes he’d ordered.

Alex followed him into the room and saw the cart of food. She noticed the silver coverings on the dishes, designed to keep the food warm, but she had a flashback to LaRue and the rat he’d placed under her covered dish the last time he’d entered her life to torment her. She quelled an involuntary shiver and turned away to wait for Walker to uncover the dishes. Instead, she found her cosmetic case and pulled out her face moisturizer. She applied it liberally and then smoothed in hand cream. “Alex, come eat,” Walker’s voice called her softly from behind.

Alex walked over to the table and looked at what he’d ordered. There was chicken soup, biscuits with butter and honey, and a bowl of fresh ripe strawberries and cream. He’d ordered milk instead of the champagne that usually accompanied the strawberries. Walker held the chair out for Alex and then kissed her cheek before going around to the other side. “Dig in Alex, before the soup gets cold,” he encouraged.

Alex took a sip of the soup and realized that she was in fact famished. She ate the whole bowl and two buttered biscuits dripping with honey. Walker knew that she needed to replenish her body, both with liquid and nutrients. When she drank her glass of milk, he refilled it from the pitcher on the table and encouraged her to drink another. Alex had slowed down at this point and merely looked at the strawberries. Walker picked one up, dipped it in the cream and held it up to her mouth. “At least try a few, you need the potassium,” he told her. “Potassium?” she questioned. “Yes, you’re dehydrated and you need fluids and potassium. Strawberries are a good source.” “I thought that was bananas,” she stated. “Bananas too, but strawberries are also a good source of potassium,” he said. Alex shrugged and helped herself to another. “Learn something new everyday,” she murmured. Neither talked about what she’d been through, instead they spoke only about trivial things and when Alex pushed back her plate, indicating that she wouldn’t be eating anymore, Walker finished off the remaining strawberries and wheeled the cart outside of the door.

Turning back into the room, he said, “You want to talk or would you rather go to bed?” Alex paced restlessly until she spied the magazine that held the television guide. She picked it up and flipped through, “Oh, look, here’s that movie with Sandra Bullock, While You Were Sleeping.” “I don’t recognize the title,” Walker said. “No, you wouldn’t, it’s a romantic comedy.” “Oh, chick flick,” he said with a grimace. Alex smiled at him. “I saw it once on a plane and thought it looked really good, but between the screaming baby in front of me and the seven foot tall guy behind me who kept placing his knees into my back, I really didn’t get to just watch it.” She looked at her watch, “It starts in ten minutes,” she said.

Walker knew that this was a ploy of Alex’s to get her mind off of what she had endured until she was ready to deal with it. Instead of trying to argue her out of watching the movie, he quietly prepared the bed with cushions from the settee so that they could watch it comfortably. Meanwhile, Alex rifled through Walker’s luggage until she found one of his large t-shirts. She dropped her terry robe and pulled it on, pulling the collar up to cover her nose as she inhaled deeply. Walker thought that it was one of her most endearing traits, but tonight, instead of giving into the impulse caused by the tempting glimpse of her bare rear, he just pulled out a pair of jockey shorts and pulled them on, also discarding his robe.

Walker settled into the bed and Alex climbed in to snuggle against him. She leaned back against his chest as the opening scenes began. As the story unfolded, Walker decided that it was totally implausible mush, just the type of movie Alex liked. He thought of the contradiction, her sharp prosecuting mind and her marshmallow heart, but he loved both sides of her.

Alex enjoyed the movie, but she mostly enjoyed being held in Walker’s arms. She enjoyed sex with him, hell, who was she fooling, she adored sex with him, but she also liked to just cuddle and be close. Every once in awhile, her mind would veer off into the dark place that she was keeping at bay with the movie and Walker’s embrace, but she immediately pulled herself back out of it and refocused onto Sandra Bullock falling in love with her supposed fiancée’s brother while the man she’d never actually met lay in a coma. The comedy of errors that landed her in the situation got more and more complicated and she found herself tangled in a web of lies and about to marry a man she didn’t know when she was completely in love with his brother.

Walker squeezed Alex tighter as the characters finally sorted themselves out and the two star crossed lovers married and went off on their honeymoon. As predicted, Alex had tears streaming down her face during the ‘happily ever after’ ending. Walker kissed her cheek and wiped her tears with his large fingers that should have been clumsy, but were so careful and tender.

“Ready to turn in?” he asked. Truthfully, she had fought to keep her eyes open the last hour of the movie, she hadn’t slept now in two days and that night had been interrupted sleep. Still, she knew what awaited her in her nightmares and she just couldn’t face the Trammels again, not yet. “Let’s see what else is on,” she suggested. Walker looked at the dark rings under her eyes and said, “I have a better idea.” She looked puzzled, but he said, “Hang on, I’ll be right back.”

Walker got out of the bed, pulling the extra cushions off and taking them over to pile them on the settee. He called room service and ordered two cups of hot chocolate with marshmallows. He switched the television off and turned out all of the lights except the lamp over in the far corner. When he heard the knock on the door, he pulled his robe on and answered it, bringing in the late night snack.

Walker brought the steaming mug over to Alex and handed it to her. She was still seated in the bed, leaning against the remaining pillows. Walker sat on the edge of the bed facing her and sipped his hot sweet liquid. Alex took a sip of hers and Walker smiled at her marshmallow moustache. He leaned forward and licked it off, finishing with a soft kiss. Alex settled back against the pillows and sipped her hot chocolate, feeling it soothing her rattled nerves. After she’d drunk about half of it, she set it down on the nightstand and just sat looking at Walker.

Walker smiled at her, knowing that she was using all of her willpower to stay awake. He leaned forward again and kissed her, gently touching her lips and then pulling back only to touch them again. He trailed light kisses across her cheek and over to her ear where he gently grasped her earlobe between his teeth and tugged. The motion woke her slightly and he placed his lips next to her ear and whispered softly, “I love you.” Alex smiled, her hand reaching out to grasp his, “I love you, too.”

Walker stood and walked over to the corner of the room and turned off the last lamp. Alex made a slight whimpering noise, almost indiscernible. Walker returned to the bed and climbed in, pulling her down so that she was nestled in his arms. He felt the tension in her and he said, “Did I ever tell you about my first love?” This made Alex raise her head slightly, trying to see his face, but unable to in the pitch black dark. “You mean the woman you met and planned to marry before she left you after you were wounded in the line of duty?” “How do you know about that?” he asked and then proceeded to answer his own question, “C.D.” “Mmm hmm,” she confirmed. “One of these days, I’m going to teach him to keep his mouth shut,” he mock threatened. Alex chuckled softly, “Darling, I have all sorts of confidence in you, but that is one challenge even you aren’t up to.” Walker grinned back, “You’re probably right. But, no, I’m talking about long before then.”

Alex frowned, he could feel her face move against the bare skin of his chest, “Just how many loves have you had?” she asked. “Including you?” he asked. She pinched his stomach in response. Walker smiled against her hair and said, “Only one, real, true love, but I had quite a few trial runs.” Alex settled back down against him. She didn’t know if she wanted to hear about his other women, but it would help to keep her mind off what she was trying to keep her mind off of. “So tell me about this first love.” “You promise not to get jealous?” he asked. “No,” she answered. “Hmm… I guess I’ll have to risk it.” “Just tell me,” she said.

“Well, she had big brown eyes and hair as black as coal. She had legs that were just amazing. I still remember the first day I saw her. I was standing in a field, outside of some neighbor’s house and I saw her walking toward me, a sexy walk, swishing her backside from side to side. She walked right up to me and I just stood there, dumbfounded. It was absolute love at first sight. I couldn’t speak, couldn’t do anything but stare at her.” “Walker?” “Yes?” “Is there a point to this story other than to annoy me?” “Just listen. I finally got enough wits about me to offer her a drink. I then decided that getting her something to eat would be a good idea, so I went back to the house and found a nice red shiny apple. I cut it into slices and rushed back out to offer it to her. She took each slice from my fingers, licking the juice from them as she did.” “Rather forward wasn’t she?” “Yes, well, I guess she was smitten with me too. After she finished the apple, she leaned forward and kissed me, I thought I had died and gone to heaven.”

Walker paused as if in thought, Alex finally prompted him to continue, “Then what?” “Huh? Oh, then I stroked her hair and was so busy being infatuated, that I didn’t hear my father come up behind me.” “Your father! How old were you?” Alex asked, knowing his father had died when he was only twelve. “I was eight.” “Eight! And you were already making out with a woman?!” “She wasn’t a woman; she was a beautiful little filly.” “Wait! When you say filly, do you mean as in horse?” “Yes,” he answered. “Walker!” “What?” “You said that you were going to tell me about your first love.” “I am. The first time I fell in love was with a horse. She was jet black, with big beautiful brown eyes and she kissed and nuzzled me within minutes of meeting me. It took you quite a bit longer, I might add.”

Alex waited a moment, not sure how to answer that. “Well, it didn’t take you much longer; you grabbed and kissed me within days of meeting you!” “Yes, I never did figure out what I did wrong that night. Should I have given you an apple first?” “You should have asked first!” “Oh, that was it. Well, do you want to hear the rest of the story?” “Yes,” she answered through a huge yawn.

“My parents couldn’t afford to buy the horse for me, but our neighbors were very generous about letting me come over and ride her. I did chores around the barn area for them and I took the best of care of Raven for four years.” “Raven that was her name?” “Yes, her coat was as dark as a raven’s and when she ran, she flew.” Alex didn’t ask him why there was a four year time limit to his relationship with the horse. She knew that his parents had been killed during a hate crime because his mother was white and his father was Cherokee. “When I went to the reservation, Uncle Ray tried to get me to ride a horse, but I just wasn’t interested. The only horse I cared about was Raven and I didn’t have her anymore.”

“What happened?” Alex asked. “One night, Uncle Ray found me out leaning against the corral fence, crying. He thought that I was missing my parents, which of course I was, but I finally confessed that I was also missing Raven. So, without me knowing, he managed to track her down and purchased her from my former neighbors. I came back one day from school and I heard her whinny and she ran straight to me. It was one of the best reunions of my life. I hopped on her back, right then and there, and she pranced around and showed off.” “Uncle Ray was a wonderful man,” Alex murmured, nearly asleep. “Yes, he was. He taught me how to ride better than I thought was possible and he taught Raven tricks.” “Like you taught Amigo?” she muttered. “Mmm… yes, just like I taught Amigo. Actually, Uncle Ray had a hand in teaching him too. I spent my entire adolescence with that horse. In fact, did you know that she is Ranger’s great-grandmother?” “She is?” “Yep, he’s directly descended from her. That’s why I brought him to the ranch when Uncle Ray died.” “You never told me,” she said. “No, I never did.”

Walker lay quietly, stroking her hair softly, feeling her breathing start to even out. “Uncle Ray bought Raven for me because he knew how much I loved her and he didn’t want me to be lonely. It was the same with you, you know. He kept pushing me toward you because he knew that look in my eye; it was true love, the kind that lasts forever.” Walker waited to see if there would be any response and then he kissed the top of her head, knowing that she had finally given into exhaustion and fallen asleep. He was glad that he’d found a way to get her to relax her guard enough to stop fighting her fatigue. Now he would lay with her nestled in his arms and be there to chase away the demons who invaded her sleep. He listened to her breathe until he too succumbed to his fatigue.

Her wrists were bound so tight that she thought that her hands would be cut off. Despite the pain, she couldn’t help but pull harder against the bindings. The sound of the whip cracking brought shivers that raced up and down her spine. She bit her lip until it bled and then she tried not to whimper, but some small sound escaped. She heard their laughter and knew that they were enjoying the torment as much as they would enjoy the torture. She squeezed her eyes shut and tried to be brave, but the snap of the whip made her flinch.

Walker, she needed Walker! Where was Walker? She leaned against the tree, wishing it was his chest, but knowing that the tree would offer no comfort, no protection. She felt the air against her bare back as the tip of the whip came closer. She heard the cruel laughter and the taunts, ‘This’ll teach her!” She cringed and bit her lip trying to remain stoic, but failing miserably. Then she felt it, the slicing of her flesh as it was laid open by the tip of the whip. It came again, and again. She felt the warm blood ooze down her back as the skin was peeled off and the flesh was laid open. She screamed in pain…

Walker gripped Alex tightly and called her name repeatedly. “Alex, Alex, wake up! Alex, you’re okay, wake up, Alex!” It took several minutes to bring her out of the nightmare. She was so tired and so deeply asleep and the nightmare had seemed so real that she didn’t respond to his urgings to wake up for some time. His initial gentle approach was replaced by him shaking her hard and calling her name loudly.

As Alex surfaced, she was disoriented and she could swear that her back was covered in blood and stripes from the cutting tip of the whip. She cried into Walker’s chest and gripped him so tightly that he could barely breathe. “Where were you? I needed you and you weren’t there!” Alex sobbed as she clung to him, still not completely out of the grip of her nightmare. “I’m here, Alex, I’m here,” he tried to comfort her as his heart was torn out by her words. Letting her down was his biggest nightmare and he felt that he had. He knew that the Trammels wanted her and yet he let her leave his sight unescorted. He wanted to kick himself and he didn’t blame her for doing it, even if it was only figuratively.

Alex continued to cling to him and sob. She was so distraught that the more she cried, the more she needed to. It was as if she was stuck in a feedback loop and she simply couldn’t stop. Walker finally took action. His self-flagellation wasn’t helping Alex and he knew that she was beyond reason. He’d seen her frightened and he’d seen her sad, but he’d never seen her this distraught. He considered calling a doctor to have her sedated, but decided to try a natural method first.

Picking her up in his arms, he sat on the side of the bed with her in his lap and then stood and headed for the bathroom. He turned the night light on in there and ran warm water into the tub. Once it was nearly full, he eased her down into it, t-shirt and all. The warm water surrounding her made her open her eyes and shriek, “The blood! Stop the blood!” Walker grabbed her shoulders almost roughly and shook her, forcing her head back so that she had to look into his face. “Alex, stop!” he commanded. Alex’s eyes got as round as saucers. “There’s no blood,” he continued in a softer voice. “You’re safe, I’m here.” “Oh, Walker,” she cried as she fell forward against him.

Walker climbed into the tub with her, shorts and all. He sat against the back of the tub and pulled her onto his lap so that she could cry into his neck. These tears were different though. These were tears of release and relief; they weren’t the tears of a woman who was completely overwrought. He cradled her and comforted her, waiting for the tears to abate.

Finally, after another twenty minutes, Alex’s sobs slowed and changed into occasional sniffles. A spasm would shake her body every once in awhile, a leftover of the maelstrom of tears. Walker shifted, reaching for a washcloth and ran it under the cold water. He held it up to her face and let her press it against her heated and swollen eyes and cheeks. After she finished with it, he took it from her and then helped her to stand up. He reached down to the hem of the t-shirt and pulled it up over her head. He then tugged off his wet briefs and pulled the drain plug. After a portion of the water had drained out, he turned the shower on and let her stand under it for a few minutes.

Walker was treating Alex as if she was Dresden china. He touched her with gentle caring touches and treated her so carefully; she could have been a child. She wasn’t though and despite the circumstances, he was well aware of the fact that she was a woman; an incredibly beautiful, now naked, completely desirable woman. He reached for the faucet and turned the water off. Stepping out of the shower, he wrapped a towel haphazardly around his waist and then wrapped one around her and lifted her out, setting her on the floor next to him. He dried her off and then sat her on the small stool in front of the vanity. Alex reached for the tissue box and blew her nose soundly. She felt as if her whole head was in a fog. She had cried so hard that her entire face felt swollen.

Walker reached for a comb and combed her hair out. He then picked up the blow dryer and blew her hair dry, his fingers, reaching into its length to lift it away from her scalp. Once he had it nearly dry, he switched the dryer off and said, “I’ll be right back.” Alex sat there, not able to summon the energy to move.

Walker returned a few minutes later having gone down the hall to the icemaker. He brought her back a glass of ice water to sip on and then he put some ice in a plastic container and added water. To this, he put in a fresh washcloth and made a cold compress. He let it soak until she had finished the water. “I have to use the restroom,” she said. He helped her to stand and led her over to the toilet. Sitting down, she wanted to ask him to leave, but it just seemed too much effort. He waited and then handed her tissue. Alex managed to stand with his assistance and she headed to the sink to wash her hands and then brush her teeth. She walked with the stiffness of a zombie and Walker continued to be concerned.

Leading her out into the main room, Walker helped her to lie down on the bed. She flinched as the cool sheet touched her bare back, but it only elicited a slight whimper as the memory flashed through her mind. Walker went back to the bathroom and came back with a cold compress to lie across her swollen eyes. The cool soothing feeling brought a sigh of relief from Alex.

Walker returned to the bathroom to clean up and use the facilities himself. He returned to Alex and eased the cloth off, only to rewet it and replace it over her eyes. He wanted her to talk about her ordeal, to share it so that she could begin to heal, but he knew that she wasn’t capable of speech at the moment. He tried to think of some way that he could cocoon her in his love so that she could sleep. He sat on the edge of the bed and it wasn’t hard to think of a nonverbal way to express himself.

Reaching out tentatively, he stroked her hair back from her face. He used light soothing strokes and then he trailed his fingers down the sides of her face to her ears. He traced the outer shell of each of her ears with the tips of his fingers. When he reached the fleshy part of her earlobes, he took them between thumb and forefinger and applied pressure. The acupressure helped to relax her and she took a deep breath and released it on a sigh. His fingers then probed the sensitive skin inside her ears as he traced the cartilage and made her shiver. He then reached for the compress and again soaked it in the ice water and replaced it over her eyes.

His finger stroked down the bridge of her narrow nose and touched the lips beneath. He used such a light touch that other parts of her body would not have been able to feel it, but the extra sensitive skin of her lips that was fed by such a high concentration of nerve endings, knew each ridge of his fingerprint as they stroked over first the lower and then the upper lip. He moved down to her chin and grasped it in his fingers, forcing her mouth open and moving her jaw side to side as the muscles that had tightened from clenching her teeth were stretched. Not able to resist the temptation, he leaned forward and inserted his tongue into the open cavern and stroked her tongue with it. Alex moaned and closed her mouth down to trap his tongue, but he pulled it slowly back out and went back to using only his hands.

Soothing on down her neck, he touched her pulse-point and stroked each of her clavicle bones simultaneously. The heels of his hand dropped lower until they brushed ever so lightly against the flesh of her breasts. His fingers never moved from her clavicle bones, but the light brushes against her breasts made her draw in air involuntarily, as a current streaked down to her belly and below. Watching her burgeoning breasts, he smiled to himself as they rose up to meet his hands. He moved his hands on down to capture them in his palms and cup them, feeling the weight of them and massaging them gently. He rolled the pebble hard nipples against the center of his palms and then slid his fingers in a bicycle spoke pattern from the tip of her breast out to the edge of its fleshiest part. He did this to both breasts, using both of his hands and concentrating on nothing but those points of contact.

Walker’s touches were not the kind that made a woman feel she might be cherished; they were the kind that made a woman know for certain that she was cherished. His entire focus was on her pleasure, on the sensations he wrought that she enjoyed. The problem was that she enjoyed touching him as much if not more than having him touch her. Alex moved her left hand over to his leg and she began a tease of her own. Her hand moved restlessly up and down his thigh, almost as if her movements were incidental and unplanned. Her fingers occasionally brushed against that part of him that told her that he was as aroused by this seductive exercise as she was herself.

Walker bit his own lip when he felt Alex’s fingers trail up his aroused flesh. He was so hot and so hard that he was afraid he would come right then and there. He knew that he was going to have to slow things down if he was going to accomplish his goal. He shifted himself a few inches down the bed and moved his hands from her breasts to her flat abdomen. He started at her navel and drew concentric circles that began tight around her navel, but slowly grew so that they reached ever higher and ever lower.

Alex could no longer reach his thick shaft, but she did continue to run her fingers over the part of his leg she was able to reach. She inched her fingers up his thigh, reaching as far up as she was able until she could reach no further. She would then return to his knee and begin again. When Walker shifted again to lean his mouth forward to capture her nipple in his mouth and roll it between his teeth, Alex was once again rewarded with the ability to touch the tip of his manhood. She found the pre-cum that sat in the tiny indentation of the tip of him and smoothed it down and around the smooth head of his penis.

Walker was bombarded with pleasure, both from the feel of her tight nipple in his mouth and the feel of her fingers as they stroked him into greater arousal. He reached his hand down between her legs and cupped her mound, applying enough pressure to cause her to lift her hips, begging for more. He didn’t comply though as he released one nipple and captured the other, his hand stayed at the top of her mound and did not penetrate into the slick slit that was swelling with arousal.

Shifting again, Walker went to the end of the bed and picked up one of Alex’s feet. He found the pressure points and pressed each in turn. He finished with one foot and then picked up the second. He set her feet down so that her legs were spread, giving him room to crawl between them.  He got onto the end of the bed and crawled slowly up, stroking the insides of her calves, flirting with the backs of her knees and then touching the insides of her thighs lightly, causing her to spread them wider until he had access to the treasure he was seeking.

Alex’s breathing was shallow and quick. The compress over her eyes closed out the world so that the only thing that existed for her was the feel of Walker’s touches. She waited impatiently as he stroked the outermost lips and was near to begging him when he finally parted the folds and found the tiny nub hidden under its hood. The first touch of this sensitive organ shot fire throughout her as she bucked her hips up and off the bed. He trailed his finger down, circling her entrance and wetting his fingers in the process. Moving back up to the top of her slit, he applied more pressure as he rubbed the tiny spot over and over and then left it again to trail back down to her entrance and slip one finger fully into her.

Speech was difficult, but Alex managed one word, “More.” Walker heeded her request and he leaned forward and licked the tip of her and then down to where his finger was embedded. He licked back up again and sucked her clitoris hard into his mouth as inserted a second finger. He stroked in and out of her with his two fingers as his tongue swirled around the engorged nub. “More,” Alex cried as her hands tangled in his hair to urge him to bring her to completion. A third finger was inserted, stretching her wider still and he twisted his hand as he pumped it in and out of her.

“Walker, please, more,” she was now begging. He knew what she wanted. She was not going to be satisfied with his hands and mouth; she wanted to be joined with him completely. He pulled his fingers out and sat up, grasping his own pulsing need, he wiped her fluids from his wet fingers up and down his length, coating himself so that he would slide smoothly into her. He placed his tip at her entrance and applied enough pressure to start to slowly sink into her, expanding her walls as he went. She cried out as he filled her, sinking into her until he was buried to the hilt.

Alex felt the pressure as he filled her until she felt the tip of him pressing against her cervix. Walker brought his hands to either side of her torso and rolled his pelvis against her while he remained embedded. Alex’s hands flew down to his buttocks and her nails dug in and she cried, “Now!”

Walker pulled back from her, almost coming completely out of her before sinking back down to fill her again. He continued this slow tormenting rhythm until she dug her fingernails into his skin, indicating that she couldn’t take anymore. He began deep, hard thrusts that had her gasping and bucking against him. He reached forward and kissed her lips, wanting to taste her and allowing her to taste herself on him. The rhythm increased until Alex was barely breathing, she was so close to the top of the mountain. Suddenly, she was free falling over it, as her body clamped down in waves around him and milked his orgasm from him. He spilled himself deeply into her and then finally pulled out of her and rolled so that he lay on his back next to her.

As wonderful as the first encounter was, Alex wasn’t prepared for it to be over. The orgasm that he had brought her to awakened whatever energy reserves existed within her and she moved down to take his semi-soft shaft into her mouth, tasting the combination of his fluids mixed with hers. She licked him and sucked on him until he was once again at full arousal. Once she had him back to where he could pleasure her, she straddled him and sunk down onto him. Clamping her pelvis tightly down on him, she clenched and released until he reached for her buttocks and began to try and pull her up and off of him, only to allow her to sink back down.

Leaning forward, Alex planted her hands on the sides of his torso and began a pumping motion that played havoc with his control. No matter how many times they made love, his body’s response to hers never ceased to amaze him. Only minutes after his first orgasm, he felt the tightening that signaled his second was about to erupt. Alex felt it too and she sank down fully onto him as he pumped his seed deep into her, triggering her own glorious release.

Alex fell forward with Walker still firmly embedded in her and sprawled out on his chest. Walker reached his arms around her and it was several moments before he realized that she had fallen asleep the minute her head touched the pillow of his chest. He smiled to himself and reached his hand to find the discarded compress. Tossing it out of the bed, he pulled a sheet up over his lover’s nude form and they lay like that as he fell asleep with her body covering his and his arms wrapped around her in a loving embrace.

The next morning, both Walker and Alex slept in, although Walker did wake up at eight. He got up quietly, slipping from underneath Alex’s limp body, and went into the bathroom to shower and get ready for the day. He went down to the café in the lobby and ordered breakfast, not surprised to see Trent saunter in. He joined Walker and ordered his breakfast.

“How’s Alex?” he asked. Walker shrugged, “She had some rough nightmares, but she was sleeping when I came down.” “Man, she’s been through hell and back, hasn’t she?” “Yes, she has. I could kick myself for letting her go off alone like that.” “Walker, we all could. None of us felt threatened though, it was a beautiful day and we were about to start off on a great hike. Who would have thought those Trammels would kidnap her and kill the sheriff?” “If I’d been thinking, I would have. I saw the look in that man’s eyes and I knew he was capable of anything.” “Well, I know that she was traumatized, but we got her back safe and sound. We also managed to rescue Sally and Vanessa. Just think what they endured.” “I’d rather not.” “Yeah, I know what you mean; it makes breakfast hard to swallow doesn’t it?” Walker just silently nodded his head.

The two had finished their meals when Carlos came in. Walker stood and motioned for Carlos to take his seat. “Would you two mind checking on Trivette for me? I’m afraid to leave Alex alone too long. If she wakes up and I’m not there…” “How is she?” Carlos asked. “She had some pretty violent nightmares last night, I don’t think she should be alone for too long.” Carlos shook his head in understanding. “We’ll go harass Trivette and then we’ll call you to let you know how he is.” “Okay, thanks. Tell him that Alex and I will be in later.”

Walker went to the counter and paid for his breakfast, purchasing a coffee and doughnut to go. He headed back up to the room and wasn’t surprised to see that Alex was still sound asleep. He sat down and began to write out his witness statement of the last two days. He knew that the local authorities would want it and he wanted to put it on paper to make sure that he had the timeline of events accurate.

A little after ten, Alex began to stir. Her first words were, “Walker?” “I’m right here, hon. What can I get for you?” “Mmm… nothing, I just needed to make sure you were here.” “I am,” he confirmed. Alex woke up slowly and then went into the bathroom to shower and try to wake up enough to face the world. When she came back out, Walker was amazed at how beautiful she looked. She had done her hair and makeup, but considering all she had been through, she should look a little worn. Her beauty never ceased to amaze him.

Alex came over to where Walker was sitting in a chair at the table. She slid into his lap and put one arm around his neck and kissed him. “Good morning,” she told him when she came up for air. “It sure is when you start it like that,” he told her and captured her lips again. Alex preempted the third kiss when she spied the cup of coffee. “Coffee, you darling man!’ she said as she grabbed the cup and pulled the lid off. “It’s a little on the cool side by now, sorry.” “Oh, I don’t care. Hook up an IV and give it to me intravenously, I’ll take it anyway I can get it.” Walker laughed at her and then unwrapped the doughnut that was in the bag and showed it to her. “A glazed old fashioned? Oh, you are going to be amply rewarded!” she promised as she sunk her teeth into the sweet moist cake.

After she finished her breakfast, still perched on Walker’s lap, she leaned over to see what he was writing. Her shirt lifted slightly in back, showing her spine above her jeans. Walker traced the vertebrae in her spine, slipping his finger up underneath her shirt to move up as far as her bra clasp. “Walker,” she warned as she read his account of the events. It was a dry matter-of-fact report. His emotions were not evident in the words he’d written, but she knew what he must have felt. At least, she had a pretty strong suspicion. “You know, when I was being force marched up that mountain, I knew one thing for absolute certain.”

Walker continued his journey in reverse, coming down to her waist band and peaking into the top of her jeans, running his finger along the edge of her panties. “What’s that?” he asked, distracted. “I knew that you would rescue me.” That stopped the motion of his finger as he asked. “You did?” “Uh huh, I did. I knew that you would come to rescue me. I could feel you behind us. After we met up with the marijuana farmers, I stopped to try and warn you.” “How?” “I don’t know, just by thinking about you and trying to picture what you were doing.” “Well, it didn’t work, but we made it through.” “Well, I guess my ESP just wasn’t working. I guess it’s because I lack your Cherokee ancestry.” “Hmm… or maybe because I was preoccupied, trying so hard to find you that I didn’t listen. Alex, I’m really sorry that I wasn’t there when you needed me.” “What? What are you talking about? I think your timing was perfect.” “How can you say that?” “Uh… maybe because you showed up just as that inbred cretin was about to whip me?” “I should have been there when they tried to take you.” “And what? Possibly gotten killed like the sheriff?” 

Walker shifted Alex on his lap so that she was now sideways and he could see her face. “I wouldn’t have gotten killed. I knew that Dwight had that knife and I would have been prepared for it.” Alex shrugged, “Either way, there was a reason I got kidnapped.” “A reason?” “Yes, if I hadn’t been taken, we never would have known about Sally and Vanessa. They needed to get out of there. I don’t know how much more they could have endured.” “So you think there was a plan?” “I’d like to believe there was. It helps me to think that whatever I suffered or you suffered or Trivette suffered, had purpose. I like to think that Sheriff Chandler died to save Sally and Vanessa. I know it may be a rather simplistic way to look at things, but…” Alex shrugged her shoulders, “it’s what I believe.”

Walker sat quietly for a moment, thinking about what she’d said. “You really think that what you went through was worth it?” “Yes, Walker. I’m not saying that it wasn’t hell and I certainly wouldn’t want to repeat the experience, but if it had a purpose, then it makes it easier to deal with, at least for me.” Walker looked at her and just shook his head. “Honey, you were strung up to a tree and about to be whipped and you think it was worth it?” “If you hadn’t come along when you did, then maybe I wouldn’t think so, but yes, I think I was just a part of a bigger plan.” “Alexandra Cahill, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; you amaze me.” “I love you, Walker. I have the utmost faith that no matter what, you will always be there for me if it’s humanly possible. I don’t know if I could have survived that whole ordeal if I hadn’t known that with every fiber of my being.” Walker leaned his head forward and kissed her lips. He started out softly and then deepened the kiss.

Just as her lips parted, the phone rang and she nearly fell off of his lap. They sat there grinning at each other and then Walker reached for the phone, picking up the receiver without taking his eyes off of Alex. “Walker,” he said. “Hey Walkman, it’s me.” “Trivette, how are you doing partner?” “I’m sore as hell. How’s Alex?” Walker was listening to Trivette, but his eyes were focused on Alex. “Beautiful,” he answered. “Huh?” “She’s fine, Trivette. We were going to come visit you later. We have to go the sheriff’s station and file our statements.” “Okay, well, I’ll be here, I’m not going anywhere.”

Walker hung the phone up and let his hand cup the seat of Alex’s jeans. “Get off my lap woman; I can’t feel my legs anymore. You need to lay off the doughnuts.” Alex made her large-eyed angry face at him, and then hopped off of his lap and went to get ready to go out. They went to the sheriff’s station and both gave their statements, including Alex’s eyewitness account of Sheriff Chandler’s murder.

After they finished at the sheriff’s station, it was after 1:00 p.m., so they went to a local restaurant and ate lunch. Alex was going to order a salad, but Walker insisted that she order something more substantial. She ended up with a Chicken Caesar Sandwich; sort a compromise between the salad she wanted and the sandwich he insisted on. She teased him that, between the anchovies in the Caesar dressing and the garlic bread the sandwich came on, he would regret insisting that she change her order. He told her that he’d risk it and leaned forward in the booth and kissed her to prove it. He then did a comedy routine, grabbing his throat and acting as if he was choking and fainting from her breath. Alex got the last laugh though, when the waitress came over and offered to perform the Heimlich maneuver on him. Walker’s red complexion wasn’t from choking.

The two headed over to the hospital. When they arrived in Trivette’s room, he was being regaled by Carlos about his mad dash down the mountainside seeking medical help for his buddy. Trivette was unable to move much, but he was doing a great deal of eye rolling. He spied Walker and Alex, and said, “Counselor, quick, get over here and slap this man with charges of criminal exaggeration.” “Jimmy, if I did that, I’d have to lock you and C.D. both up and throw away the key.” She felt Walker chuckle as he stood next to her, his arm firmly around her waist.

Changing the subject, Alex asked, “Jimmy, how are you feeling? Any better today?” “Better? Are you kidding? Yesterday I thought a truck had run me over, but today, I’m convinced it was a herd of elephants and they each danced the cha-cha on my ribcage.” “Wow, Trivette, and you say I exaggerate?” Carlos asked in wonder. Trent, who had been standing in the corner, quietly observing the others said, “Fellas we’re not in Texas, you don’t have to try and outdo each other with the tallest tale.” “Yeah,” Walker chimed in, “wait till you’re back sitting at C.D.’s bar and tell him all the embellished details.”

Alex leaned her head on Walker’s shoulder. “Speaking of C.D., has anyone called him?” “Yeah, I talked to him this morning,” Jimmy said. “How is he?” “He’s madder’n a wet hen.” Everyone smiled at Jimmy’s imitation of C.D. “He said that he would have given his chili recipe to have been here and had a chance to square off against the Trammel brothers.” “Well, I for one am glad he wasn’t,” Alex said. “I put enough of my dear friends in jeopardy.” “The way I remember it,” Trent said, “you were as much a victim of the Trammels as anyone.” “I don’t think it was a competition, but, yeah, I guess I can’t blame myself anymore than the rest of you can blame yourselves for the fact that I was kidnapped. I’m just grateful you were all there, for me and for each other. It nice to have friends you can count on.” “Amen,” Trent echoed. The others nodded their heads in agreement.

After making sure that Trivette had everything he needed, they all headed out to let him get some rest. “So, what do you two plan to do for the rest of this vacation?” Carlos asked Walker and Alex. “Well, we really haven’t talked about it,” Walker admitted. “Trent and I were talking and we thought that maybe we’d go ahead and camp for a few days. Nothing too ambitious, but just kinda get out and see the area the way it was supposed to be seen.” Walker nodded; the idea appealing to him. “That sounds like a plan,” he said and then looked at Alex. He could tell by her expression that she was not up for the idea. “I can give you guys a good trail to follow that will take you about three days to do.” “You two can come with us if you want.” Carlos offered. “No thanks, we’re just going to play it by ear and see what we feel up to,” Walker answered.

The foursome decided to meet for dinner at the same place they had met up with the Trammels on their first night. It was a small town and catered primarily to tourists, so there weren’t many options. It was a smaller and quieter crowd that evening. Since it was Monday, most people had left for home or were out hiking and camping. Others, who had just done day-hikes, were recuperating in their rooms from the day’s exertion.

Even the music was quieter and when Trent challenged Carlos to another game of pool, Alex and Walker were left alone at the table. He looked at her and said, “I think I can keep up with this music, wanna dance?” Alex smiled at him and said, “Do you really need to ask?” He answered her smile with a grin of his own, “No, but it’s polite to.” She smiled and stood, grabbing his hand as they headed out to the small dance floor. They were one of two couples dancing. It was clear that the slow romantic music was more in keeping with the other couple, who, unbeknownst to them, was on their honeymoon.

Walker held Alex tight and moved her slowly around the dance floor, concentrating on the feelings having her so close evoked. He knew that he had, once again, come close to losing her. It frightened him that love made him so vulnerable, but if his only other option was to live without Alex, he would suffer the vulnerability.

Alex wasn’t a mind reader, but she was pretty sure that she knew where Walker’s thoughts were. It was hard for him to accept that he couldn’t control the universe and keep her safe. He had lost so many people who were dear to him that he worked that much harder to protect her. There were times when it felt suffocating and there were other times, like up there on that mountain, when she was eternally grateful for his love, his protection, and his perseverance. She tilted her head up slightly, angling it up on his chest so that she could reach the pulse point in his neck with her lips. She kissed him there gently and then poked her tongue out briefly to lick his warm skin.

“Ms. Cahill, behave yourself,” Walker scolded lovingly. “Where’d you go?” she asked, knowing that she now had his full attention. “Nowhere, I’m right here, with you,” he claimed. “Liar,” she challenged mildly. Walker sighed, “I was just thinking of how precious you are to me and I was thanking God that I’m standing here holding you in my arms.” “Oh,” she said, not knowing how to respond to his honesty. “Alex?” “Hmm…?” “What do you want to do for the next few days? Do you want to stay here? I mean, we can fly home if you prefer.” “No, thank you, Walker, but I don’t mind staying here. Knowing the Trammels are in jail and are not going to be getting out on parole or anything makes me feel safe.” “But do you want to be here?” “I want to be wherever you are,” she answered firmly. Walker smiled and kissed her hair, “Okay, where do we want to be?” he asked. “Here is fine,” she said sleepily as she snuggled her face into his chest.

The two remained on the dance floor while Carlos beat Trent game after game. The evening grew later and Walker led Alex back to their table, pulling her into the booth beside him and wrapping his arm around her shoulder so that she was resting against his side. He ordered them each a beer, knowing that Alex was asleep on her feet, but had declined his suggestion to go up to bed, because she was afraid of the nightmares that may be awaiting her. He wished that there was some magic way to kiss away the hurt, but he knew that her mind had to deal with what had happened in its own time, in its own way. All he could do was be there to comfort her.

When Trent and Carlos came to join them, it was nearing ten p.m. Carlos told them that Trent was going to have to sell his corvette to pay up his debt from all the games he lost. “Nah,” Trent told them, “I’ll just teach you how to live off the land and we’ll call it even.” “Says who?” Carlos questioned. “Well, either that or I let you figure it out on your own while we’re camping,” Trent threatened. Carlos decided to keep quiet, they could argue on the subject all night. One of the best things about their friendship was that they had different skills and interests, so that when they were together, they complimented each other, but there was always that underlying competition that kept them both trying to do their best.

Carlos and Trent decided to head back to the hotel to get to bed. They planned to head out early in the morning on their three day camping trip. “I’ll meet you down in the café at 7:00 with a map of the trail,” Walker offered. Alex muttered, “Do it quietly,” under her breath, just loud enough for Walker to hear. “Okay, we’ll see you two later,” Trent said as he stood, “unless you’re planning to head back to the lodge yourselves,” he offered. “No, I’m going to make Walker dance with me one more time before we head in,” Alex said. The two headed on out.

“Alex, why didn’t you want to go back with them? You’re nearly asleep now,” Walker asked her. “I didn’t want it to be obvious that we’re still sharing a room. I thought that if we went back later, you’d be less embarrassed.” “I’m not embarrassed. I asked for a room with you to begin with.” “I know, but last night was different, you could say that you didn’t want to leave me alone. Tonight, well… it would be obvious that we were sharing a room because we’re lovers.” Walker sighed, knowing that Alex was right. It wasn’t that he minded his close friends knowing that he and Alex were lovers, he just had this old fashioned streak that must have come from his mother; he needed to ensure that he didn’t do anything that would make anyone think any less of Alex or open her up to gossip.

Alex stayed put in the booth, her head dropping to Walker’s shoulder and he felt her breathing even out. He grinned to himself, so much for ‘one more dance.’ Nudging her gently, he woke her up and suggested they go back to the room. As they crossed the dance floor, Alex stopped and tugged on his arm, “You owe me one more,” she told him.” Walker stopped and looked around. The other couple had long since retired and Alex was the only woman in the place except for the one waitress. There were men at the bar, a few at the dart board and a few playing pool. Other than that, it was just them. “Alex, I’ll make it up to you, come on,” he said and tugged her on out.

The air had a distinct chill to it and it woke Alex up. “Walker, why wouldn’t you dance with me?” she asked. “I will. I would just rather dance with you in our room, where it’s just the two of us and I can touch you the way I’m dying to touch you,” he told her. “Oh,” she said and picked up the pace a bit.

When they reached their room, Walker went over to the radio and found a station playing soft romantic music. He sat on the bed and pulled his boots off and then sat her on the bed and slipped her shoes off. Then he pulled her up into his arms and held her close, his hands reaching down to cup her bottom and pull her into him. Their bodies rubbed together, the clothing preventing them from actually feeling each other, but there was no doubt that they were reacting to each other.

Alex reached her hand up and undid the buttons on Walker’s shirt. She slowly undid the first button with one hand and then moved down to the second. It took an entire song to get his shirt open, but when it was, she tugged it out of his waistband and slipped it from his shoulders and then rested her head on his bare chest, loving the feel of his chest hair against her cheek. Walker’s hands trailed up from her rear to her lower back and down again. Alex leaned back again and this time, she undid the buttons of her own blouse. She undid one at a time, slowly, drawing out the anticipation of pressing herself against him without any barriers.

Walker watched her fingers, watching each bit of skin being exposed as if for the first time. The pink satiny bra she wore, covered her breasts, but he could see the hardened nipples peak beneath it. When she had the shirt undone, she shrugged out of it and pressed herself back against him. She rubbed the satin bra against him, making him moan as she lifted her arms to trap him to her. This time, when Walker’s hands trailed up her spine, they encountered her warm bare flesh and he caressed her lightly, sending chills up and down her body. He finally reached the clasp to her bra and unhooked it, waiting for her to lean back so that he could slip it off of her arms.

Before he could explore this newly uncovered flesh, Alex leaned back into him and rubbed her tight nipples against his chest hair, enjoying the feel of the rough texture against her sensitized nipples. Walker cupped her buttocks with his hands and nearly lifted her off her feet as he pulled her groin into his; letting her know without words how much he wanted her.

Alex countered by curving her back so that her chest left his and then she latched onto his male nipple and tugged it into her warm mouth. Her tongue laved his nipple as she suckled, much like he often did to her. His response was similar to hers as well. He began to roll his hips against hers, imitating the motion they made when they were joined, but still, they both were wearing their jeans. Alex shifted to his other nipple and continued her torment. “You’re driving me crazy,” Walker groaned. “You said that you wanted to dance in private,” Alex said. “This is how I dance in private.” She nipped his nipple and then trailed kisses up his chest to his neck.

Walker lowered her to the ground as he fought for breath, her tongue slicing into his mouth and preventing him from using that route. Alex’s hands had more freedom as her feet touched the ground and she was able to step back slightly. They played with his abdomen, teasing his waist and then rubbing against the bulge in his jeans. Walker broke the kiss and gasped for air, “Alex! I’m going to explode if you don’t stop,” he warned. Alex gave an evil chuckle and then undid his belt and then his button and finally his fly. “Careful,” he warned as she lowered the zip, one tooth at a time. By the time she had his fly open, he nearly burst out of it. She hooked her fingers into his waistband and eased his jeans down over his hips and followed them as she sunk to her knees in front of him.

Walker lifted each foot at Alex’s urging and she pulled his pant legs off along with his socks. She sat back on her heels and looked at his amazing body on display in front of her. He wore nothing now except black briefs. The amazingly large bulge in the front, a testament to just how aroused he was. Alex’s tongue circled her lips, as she anticipated tasting him. She sat up on her knees and reached for that tempting bulge, stroking him lightly through the cotton material. He groaned as his head went back, trying to contain the orgasm that hovered so close. Alex knew how close he was and she didn’t want to waste a drop of his release, so she hooked her fingers into his briefs and eased them down over his hips. She leaned forward and kissed the very tip of him, licking up the drops waiting there for her tongue.

After helping him shed the last of his clothing, Alex stood and undid her own jeans. Walker reached toward her, but she stopped him with a firm “no” and continued to slowly ease her own zipper down. She rolled her jeans down over her legs, revealing the pink satin panties that matched the bra she had discarded earlier. She pulled off one pant leg at a time, shedding her socks simultaneously. Alex stood and watched Walker as she swayed her hips in time to the slow romantic music. He watched her, his eyes glued to her as she mimicked the soft stroking she had done to him on herself. She stroked her fingers up and down her mound watching his eyes as his pupils dilated in response. She then slid her panties down and off, stepping clear of them, but not stopping the sway of her hips.

Suddenly, as if a restraint snapped, Walker moved forward and in one smooth move, he picked her up and pressed her hard against him. He covered her mouth with his and probed his tongue into her depths, tasting her heat and demanding a response from her. Alex complied as her arms went up around his broad shoulders.

Walker set her back down onto the ground and then reached his hands to cup her buttocks. He pulled her up, high into the air so that her legs wrapped around his waist. Easing her hips back, Alex lined him up so that as she sank down, his thick length pushed up into her. She gasped as he filled her and she slowly took him in to the hilt. With her legs around his back, she clamped down hard and held him inside of her, clenching her muscles onto him and bringing forth his eruption before he could even think to control it. "Damn it, Alex!" he complained as he completely lost the control he tried so hard to maintain. Alex laughed triumphantly, knowing that the night was only beginning and that she would get her reward soon enough. "That was for the coffee and doughnut this morning," she said. "Hell, I'll bring you two, tomorrow!"

Alex laughed, staying in the same position and grinding her hips slowly against him. She knew that he was getting turned on by her motions, his response was very clear. Once she had him back to full arousal, she sank her head against him, "I'm tired. I think you'll have to finish this." "Gladly," he agreed and walked over to the bed, laying her body on the end so that her hips were at the edge, with him joined to her. He pulled back and pumped down into her, watching her face as she looked back into his. "You like this?" he asked with a smile hovering around his lips. "It's okay," she answered, grinning. "Hmm..., just okay, huh?" He reached his hand to touch the most sensitive part of her body, slipping his finger into her folds to find that tender spot. Rubbing on it gently, he said, "I guess, I'll have to try harder. Does this help?" Alex had to struggle to get in enough breath to answer. "Yeah, I like that, it's a little better.”

Walker knew that she was using all of her energy to appear nonchalant, so he decided to turn up the heat just a notch more. He leaned forward, continuing to touch her swollen nub and pump his hips in and out of her as he latched onto her left nipple and tugged hard. Alex cried out as the waves of climax rushed over her and threatened to drown her. Walker knew that he could extend her climax and he continued to pump into her at a punishing pace as he stroked rapidly over her clitoris and moved his mouth to her right nipple and gently bit down onto it. "Enough, no more," she panted, her voice coming out strangled. Walker continued to pump into her until he too climaxed and then he stayed inside her, waiting for the remainder of his seed to gush into her.

Once he had emptied himself into her warm depths, he pulled out and sank onto his heels at the end of the bed. He pulled her legs onto his shoulders and buried his face into her heat. He found her clitoris and sucked it into his mouth, lapping at her with his tongue. "No, Walker, stop!" she cried as her hips bucked beneath him. "Damn it, I can't breathe," she complained. Walker didn't let up, continuing his assault, bringing her back up to the top of the crest again and just as he felt her begin to go over the top again, he reached in with two of his fingers and plunged into her, pushing down on that secret spot he knew intensified her climax. Alex was crying out as her body lost control completely and she shuddered over and over again.

Walker pulled his fingers out of her and stood, finding that his balance wasn't what it usually was. He walked into the bathroom and ran a hot bath. He called down to room service and while he waited for them, he picked up the various articles of clothing from around the room and put them in one pile out of site.

Alex continued to lie on the bed, completely incapable of movement. Walker scooped her up into his arms and strode with her to the tub where he gently lowered her in. He grabbed the terry robe off of the hook when he heard the knock on the door and accepted the cup of hot chocolate that had been spiked with Baileys. He brought it into the bathroom and handed it to Alex. She sipped it and looked up at him suspiciously. "Are you trying to get me drunk so that you can have your way with me... again?" she asked. "Would I need to?" he countered.

She decided that discretion was the better part of valor as he stepped into the tub and began to wash her breasts and then moved the rag lower, to between her legs. Alex sipped on the cocoa and then set the mug on the side of the tub as Walker stroked down her legs and her feet. She wasn't prepared for his next move as he placed his hands under her hips and brought her up out of the warm water. She gasped as the cold air hit her most sensitive spot, and she gasped again as his mouth closed over it. She gripped the sides of the tub as his mouth moved up and down the sensitive slit, his tongue probing all the recesses. Thrusting his tongue deep inside of her, Walker mimicked their last joining as his nose rubbed her swollen flesh and his tongue thrust in and out of her. "Walker!" she screamed as she once again felt the climax take over her body.

Walker lowered her into the water and took the rag to clean her once again. "Don't touch me!" Alex stated, not even able to bare the washrag touching the over-sensitized flesh. "That'll teach you to tease me," Walker gloated. "One of these days, Walker..." "What?" "I'm going to figure out a way to win this game," she claimed. He laughed, "I don't think so, Alex. You don't have the stamina." "That's for sure," she admitted as she slumped against the wall of the tub, barely able to keep her eyes open.

Walker took pity on her and stood up in the tub and stepped out. He brought the cup of cocoa to her lips and urged her to take a few more sips. Finally, he lifted her out of the tub, stood her on her feet to dry her and then scooped her up once more to carry her into the bed. Alex was asleep before the covers were pulled up over her.

Alex slept peacefully for several hours, but eventually, the Trammels and what she had been through once again invaded her sleep in the form of nightmares. She woke up thrashing and crying out Walker’s name, but he was there, holding her close and whispering soothing words into her ear. For a man who rarely said “I love you,” he was doing a pretty good job of telling her in a variety of ways. Alex relaxed back into him and when sleep again claimed her, she was able to sleep peacefully.

Walker awoke with the sun, as was his usual habit. He gazed at Alex and watched the sun graze her cheek. His heart swelled with love as he watched the soft in and out of her breath. He was tempted to wake her, just so that he could gaze into her beautiful blue eyes, but he didn’t. Mostly because he knew that they would be looking at him with an annoyed expression this early in the morning.

He slipped quietly from the bed and showered and dressed and then headed down to make arrangements. He had made a decision the night before and he needed to see about carrying it out. He went down to the main lobby and began making inquiries until it was time to meet Trent and Carlos. The two men were in the café when he arrived and he joined them and ordered a western omelet and coffee. While they ate, Walker showed them a map with a trail he had wanted to take Alex on, but that he now knew would not happen, at least not this trip. It was an easy three day hike with some great scenery and fishing if they wanted. After they finished eating, Trent and Carlos said goodbye and headed on out.

Walker went back up to the room where Alex was still sleeping. He wrote her a brief note telling her that she should shower and dress and pack up the rest of her things. He had a surprise for her and he would be back to pick her up at noon. He began to pack and carried all of the luggage except for her makeup bag and overnight bag down to the SUV. Trent had given him the keys and he had free use of it for the next three days. He stopped at the sporting goods store and made several purchases. Then, he went to the grocery store and bought enough food for the two of them. After a last minute stop at the florist, he had all that he needed. He drove out to the address on the packet in the glove compartment and set up for Alex’s surprise.

Alex woke up at nine and looked around for Walker. She found his note and wondering what he was up to, followed his instructions. She was dressed and ready to go at the assigned time. One minute before noon, Walker used his electronic key to let himself in.

“Hi,” Alex said from her perch on the bed where she was flipping channels, trying to find something to watch. “Hi, yourself, are you ready to go?” “That depends, where are we going?” “Well, first I thought we’d go downstairs and get some lunch and then I thought we’d go visit Trivette.” “And after that?” “You’ll see; it’s a surprise.” “I have one question.” “What?” “Does this surprise have indoor plumbing?” Walker smiled, “You’ll see.” “Uh uh, no indoor plumbing, no me.” He walked over to her and sat next to her on the side of the bed so that he was facing her. “I can’t tempt you?” “Nope,” she said. Walker leaned in and kissed her softly. “That’s a shame. I think you would have really liked it.”

Alex sat quietly for about fifty seconds, the length of her ability to hold out against him. “What would I have liked?” “Your surprise,” he answered. “Walker…” she said exasperated. “I’m not going to give you any hints. You either trust me and come with me or I’ll see you in three days.” “You wouldn’t leave me here alone for three days,” she challenged. “Why not? You’re an adult; you’ll find some way of amusing yourself.” “While you do what?” “Enjoy your surprise alone and miss you terribly.” Alex knew that he wasn’t going to give in. He was just as stubborn as she was when he wanted to be. One of them was going to have to compromise and it looked like this time was going to be her turn. “Okay, I’ll go, but just remember, if there isn’t indoor plumbing, you’ll be sleeping alone.” Walker didn’t respond, he just collected her bag and held the door for her.

At the hospital, Trivette had met a respiratory therapist for whom he developed an instant attraction. Apparently, it was mutual and he spoke of Nicole as if she was heaven on earth. Alex and Walker had been through enough of Trivette’s intense but brief relationships to know what to expect. It did make it easier though to tell Trivette that they wouldn’t see him for three days. Trivette tried to get Walker to tell him where he was taking Alex, but he had about as much luck as she had had. “You take care, Jimmy,” Alex told him as she leaned in to kiss his cheek. “You too, counselor,” he told her. Nicole came in as they were leaving, “Time for your breathing treatment,” she told him. “I’ve got an idea, why don’t you kiss me and see how long I can hold my breath?” Trivette suggested. Alex and Walker shared a look, both rolling their eyes as they headed out.

Walker drove out of Park City and headed up higher into the mountains. They passed ski lifts that were closed, waiting for the snow to come in a couple of months. “Where are you taking me?” Alex asked curiously, forgetting for the moment that he wasn’t going to tell her. “You’ll see,” he answered as the vehicle climbed and followed the curving mountain rode. They reached a summit and there were several ski cabins clustered together. Most were currently vacant, waiting for the ski crowd to arrive. Walker pulled up to one that was built to look like a Swiss Chalet. It was two-story with a peaked roof and a deck off the top floor. “Oh, Walker, it’s charming.” Walker smiled at her and parked in the driveway.

Alex sat in the SUV looking at the chalet and smiling to herself. It looked like a picture postcard. Walker came around the vehicle and opened her door for her. “Come on, the inside is just as nice and it has indoor plumbing,” he told her. Alex smiled and took his hand as she exited the vehicle. Walker had her bag in one hand and he was clasping her hand tightly in the other. “We only have neighbors in two other cabins right now.” “Wow, this is great,” she said as he opened the door and ushered her in.

Alex looked around her and admired the cozy interior. There was a large fireplace in the corner of the living room. The downstairs had a kitchen, dining room, a bedroom, bathroom and a large Jacuzzi that overlooked the lake below the property. “I thought we’d sleep upstairs,” Walker said as he guided her up the stairs to the loft area. There was a large bed that took up most of the open bedroom. The room opened out onto the deck that looked out to the ski runs below. To the side of the deck, you could once again see the lake. “Oh, Walker, this is amazing,” she exclaimed as she turned back into the room. “There’s more,” he said, handing her a vase filled with red roses. “What’s this?” Alex asked, her eyebrows rising in surprise. “Just me remembering to tell you I love you with roses,” he said. Alex brought the bouquet to her face and inhaled its fragrance. “Oh, Walker,” she said, with tears in her eyes. Walker frowned, “If I knew it would make you cry, I wouldn’t have gotten them.” “These are tears of happiness, you just touched me, that’s all,” she explained.

Walker took the vase from her and set it down on the writing table in the corner of the room. He took her hand and pulled her out of the bedroom to the other side of the landing. “There’s also a game room with a pool table and video games and two more bedrooms and two more bathrooms.” “This place is huge, it would have comfortably housed all of us,” she said. “No way, I plan to make love to you in the Jacuzzi and up here without having to put clothes on in between,” he said. She looked into his eyes and smiled, knowing that despite the teasing tone, he was dead serious.

“Can we go out and look at the lake before it gets dark?” Alex asked. “I’ll do you one better. Go pull on the warmest sweater you brought. Your bags are in the closet in our room.” Alex went and did as he asked. She met him downstairs and he led her out to the dock down a short flight of stairs. There was a canoe tied to the dock and he handed her a life vest. “Put this on and hop in,” he told her. She did as he asked and sat in the middle while he got in and untied the moorings. Alex scooted off the bench seat and back to where he was, sitting between his legs and leaning back against him. She felt all the tension she hadn’t even been aware of seep out of her. “This is heavenly,” she said. “Yes, it is a nice view.” Alex stayed quiet, not able to explain what she’d meant.

Walker paddled them out to the middle of the lake and then laid the paddle down and leaned back, pulling Alex with him and playing with her hair. “Happy?” he asked. “I can’t even begin to tell you,” she said. “Try,” he urged her. “It’s so rare that we get to be alone together. These last few months, ever since the shooting, I’ve felt as if I’ve been running on a treadmill, going as fast as I can, but never getting anywhere.” Walker reached his hands down, massaging between her shoulders, gently loosening the muscles around the residual scar tissue from where she had been shot be Karl Storm. “Is that why you’ve thrown yourself into HOPE House?”

Leaning forward slightly to give his fingers better access, she said, “Yes, I guess so. I don’t think it’s been conscious, but knowing how close I came to dying, I’ve been trying to cram as much into living as possible. The thing is that the one person, who means more to me than life itself, is suffering the most.” “You mean me, right?” “Yes, Cowboy, I mean you. Instead of making certain that we spend as much time together as possible, I’ve practically shoved you out of my life.” “I have to take some credit. I think I’ve been running scared ever since I asked you to marry me.” “You don’t want to marry me?” “I do want to, but it’s a big step and I gotta tell you, it scares me.” “I wish it didn’t, but I know what you mean. Promising to spend the rest of your life with someone shouldn’t ever be taken lightly.” “A life sentence,” he said. “Thanks a lot!” she responded.

Walker pulled her back against his chest so that she could feel his chuckle. “I didn’t mean it was a bad sentence; just that it would be for life. I only want to get married once and I only want to get married to you.” “So when do you think we’ll get married?” “I don’t know, Alex. Maybe when we both stop running so fast to keep in place.” “Yeah, I need to figure out a way to make HOPE Center run without me having to be there every day.” “I’ll second that,” he agreed. “And you have to figure out a way to commit to the idea of being my husband.” Walker wrapped his arms across her chest and pulled her into a tight backwards hug. He leaned his face close to her ear and said, “I love you. One day, you will be my wife, but until then, don’t ever forget that I love you.” “I love you too,” Alex answered. “Now get me back to the cabin and make a huge roaring fire to warm me up, I’m freezing.” Walker laughed at the sudden change in conversation, but he quickly rowed them back to shore and helped her out of the canoe.

Alex wanted to rush back inside the cabin, but she couldn’t just hurry off and leave Walker to take care of everything, not when he’d been so incredibly thoughtful towards her needs. She took off the life vest and handed it to Walker to be stowed in the boat. She then waited until he was standing upright and rushed into his arms, crushing herself against his chest. “Whoa, you almost knocked me into the lake.” “Walker, I’m freezing!” she said through her chattering teeth. “Come on then,” he urged her as they headed back up the stairs to the cabin.

He led her into the Jacuzzi room and turned on the jets while he helped her disrobe. She was able to pull off her own sweater, but the buttons on her blouse and jeans were more of a challenge with her fingers stiff from cold. Once she was nude, she stepped into the warm bubbling water. Walker shed his own clothes and soon followed her. As soon as he was submerged, he found Alex back in his arms, pressing herself against him and kissing him. “I love you, I love you, I love you,” she said between kisses. “I believe you,” he joked, but began kissing her as well.

The two necked, not taking their love making beyond the touching and tasting of foreplay. They broke apart and Alex pressed her back up against a jet spray to let it pound against her, relaxing her muscles further. “Walker, what are we going to do for dinner?” she asked as her stomach reminded her that she’d only had one meal that day. “I bought food, we just need to decide what to fix.” “Well, let’s get to it. I need sustenance if you want me to be up to making love all night.” “Let’s go!” Walker said eagerly. Alex laughed at his exaggerated response. Walker took her hand and pulled her up out of the tub. They toweled off and donned the robes Walker had bought for them and placed next to the tub. Alex slipped into the warm moccasin styled slippers he’d put there for her. Once she was covered, she turned to see that he was dressed similarly.

They headed down the hall to the kitchen area. “You start that fire and I’ll start dinner,” Alex suggested. By the time Walker had the fire going strong; Alex had boiled some spaghetti and made a quick sauce to go over it. Walker came into the kitchen and chopped a salad while Alex made garlic bread and ran it in the oven. They carried their meal, along with a bottle of red wine to the table. “Wine, we rarely have wine,” Alex noted. “Neither of us is on duty or on call and we don’t have to drive anywhere.” She smiled, enjoying the idea that they were alone in a mountain cabin and no one on the earth knew how to reach them. Walker didn’t let her in on the fact that he had trusted the phone number to the cabin to C.D. and to Trivette’s doctor, in case of emergency.

The two enjoyed a filling meal and then shared the task of cleaning up and washing the dishes. They played a game of backgammon. Walker had found a cupboard of board games in the game room. They sat on cushions at the coffee table in the living room, enjoying the warmth of the fire. After Walker won two games to Alex’s one, he got up and went to the kitchen, coming back with two mugs of hot chocolate and a bag of marshmallows. “Do you want your marshmallows on a stick or in your cocoa?” he asked. “Oh, roasted marshmallows!” Alex exclaimed, answering his question indirectly.

Walker fashioned roasting sticks out of two hangers he found in the closet. They roasted marshmallows until Alex couldn’t eat another and then he moved his cushion so that he could lean against the base of the couch. Alex shifted to lean back against him and sip her cocoa while she watched the fire. “You know what, Walker?” “What?” “I think you are the most romantic man I’ve ever met.” “Me?” “Uh huh.” “Are you sure?” “Positive.” “Wow, you don’t know any romantic men, do you?” “I’ve dated men who’ve brought me wine and roses. I’ve dated men who’ve taken me to the opera and the ballet. I’ve dated men…” “Is there a point to this?” Alex laughed, “Hush, I’m getting to it. I’ve dated men who’ve done all the clichéd things, but I’ve never dated a man who could turn marshmallows and cocoa into high romance.” Walker’s response was to squeeze her tighter, his hands rubbing up and down her robed arms. He buried his face into her silky hair and nuzzled her neck with his nose.

“The fire is nearly out, do you want to move this upstairs?” “Walker, can I ask you something?” “Sure, what is it?” “Would it be all right if we didn’t make love tonight?” “Yes, what’s wrong, are you sore from last night?” “A little, but I just want to cuddle tonight, is that okay?” “It’s better than okay. Cuddling with you happens to me be my second most favorite activity in the whole world.” “And the first?” she asked, already knowing the answer. “Fishing,” he answered. “Fishing?!” she exclaimed and punched his arm. “Ouch! I’m joking!” Alex was taken back to a time early in their relationship when she had been trying to get him to tell her about a vision he’d had. He’d led her on, telling her that they’d been doing something and not wanting to tell her what. He’d finally said that they’d been fishing and she’d hit him then too. He always managed to get her; she fell for it every time.

Walker put the screen in front of the remaining embers that were all but out. He led Alex upstairs and after taking turns in the bathroom, they shed their robes and crawled into the cold sheets together. Alex was in his arms in record time, pressing her nude body against his warm one, trying to minimize the contact her bare skin had with the cold sheets. “Alex, you get any closer and you’re going to be in my skin,” he complained good-naturedly. She wrapped herself within his embrace and heaved a huge sigh. He was quiet for a moment and then he said, “Alex?” “Shh…” she shushed him. “What?” he questioned, not sure why he wasn’t supposed to talk. “Amen,” she said and then added, “I was just thanking God for you,” she said. He smiled and kissed her temple, smoothing her hair back as she tucked her head under his chin. They lay cocooned in their love for each other and Alex slept the entire night through without even one nightmare of the Trammels.

The next morning, the sun came into the double French doors at the end of the room waking Alex up far before her usual time. Of course, Walker had gotten up before the sun, so she still found herself alone in bed. She climbed out from the covers and pulled on her robe and slippers. She walked to the end of the room and saw that Walker was standing on the deck, his hands on the railing as he looked out over the still lake.

Alex slipped through the door and walked up behind him, wrapping her arms around his waist and leaning her chin on his shoulder. “You’re up early,” he said as he picked up the coffee mug from the porch railing and handed it to her. She took it gratefully and sipped from it before handing it back to him. “Yes, the blasted sun decided to wake me up. I wish it would warm me up.” “No, I made a deal with it. I let it wake you up if I get to be the one to warm you up.”

Walker turned in her arms and pulled her snuggly into his embrace. Alex rested her face on the lapel of the terry robe that he wore. “You’re going to have to do a lot better than this,” she complained. “Oh, I plan to,” he promised and squeezed tighter and lifted her off the deck. He walked with her to the room and set her inside and then returned for his coffee. “You have twenty minutes to shower and change and meet me downstairs,” he said as he headed down himself. Alex stood in the room with her mouth open, gaping like a fish. “Well, I never…” she said as she did as she’d been told.

When Alex arrived downstairs in jeans and a sweater, Walker had breakfast waiting for her on the table. She sat down and sipped the coffee, waiting for him to join her. “What’s on the agenda today?” she asked. Silently, she said, to herself, ‘I know what’s not on the agenda.’ Walker looked at her and smiled. “I want you to get a chance to see a piece of this country without any bad memories mixed in. I thought we’d go for a day hike, you game?” Alex shrugged, “Sure, why not. I never said that I had sworn off hiking for all time.” “I know, but I want you to have some good memories to take back to Dallas with you of this trip.” ‘I could have made some darn good memories if you’d given me a chance upstairs,’ she thought. Aloud, she said, “Okay, what should I do to help us get ready?” “I started making some sandwiches, but I didn’t get a chance to finish packing our lunch.” “I’ll do that and the dishes,” Alex volunteered. “Don’t wait for me to argue with you,” Walker said with a smile.

The two completed their chores to get ready for the day. Alex added a jacket to her ensemble and they headed out, back to the boat dock. Walker rowed them across the lake to another boat dock. They climbed out and started off on a slightly sloping hike that led up to the mountains peak. They higher they climbed, the more the temperature dropped and the starker the terrain became. It was just after noon when they reached the summit. They had hiked in relative silence, each lost in their own thoughts.

When they reached the top of the mountain, Walker reached a hand down and pulled Alex up the last few feet. He stood directly in front of her and captured her gaze with his. “Alex, do you trust me?” “Of course.” “Close your eyes.” “Close my eyes?” “Yes.” “Okay.” Alex closed her eyes and Walker turned her so that he was behind her and then carefully walked her towards the edge of the cliff.

Alex knew that she was completely vulnerable. She knew that Walker held her life in his hands, but she felt no fear. She did trust him, implicitly. Walker led her right to the edge and then pulled her torso back against him. “Open your eyes, Alex.” Alex did as she was instructed and gasped. Out before her, there was a panorama that was stark and yet absolutely breathtakingly beautiful. The shapes of the mountains against the brilliant blue of a fall sky created a view that was startling. “Oh Walker,” she breathed.

“Alex, do you see the blue of the sky?” “Yes.” “That’s the same color as your eyes. Every time I look at you, I lose the ability to breathe, just for an instant, but it’s the same as looking out at this view. You are as beautiful as this, Alex and you always will be.” “Walker, I don’t know what to say.” “Don’t say anything, just know that I love you and I will for as long as these mountains stand.” Tears shimmered in Alex’s eyes and Walker took a step back to allow her to step back and turn in his arms. “I love you too, Walker. Thank you for bringing me here. I’ll treasure this moment forever.” Walker kissed her forehead, “And I’ll treasure you forever.” Alex looked at him and shook her head slowly from side to side, “Like I said, the most romantic man I’ve ever known.” He grinned at her and then leaned forward to kiss her lips. After he released her lips, she said, “Walker, do you really love me?” “Yes, I really do.” “Then get me off of this blasted freezing mountaintop before I catch pneumonia!”

Walker laughed, but guided her down until they came to a small valley that was protected from the wind. Here, the sun beat down strong enough that they could spread out their picnic lunch and eat comfortably. They ate their sandwiches and the cherry tarts that Alex had included. Walker had a thing for anything cherry and he’d bought the tarts at the bakery in the grocery store. He always said that he bought the sweets for her, but she’d packed three and he’d consumed two of them.

After lunch, they explored their surroundings, Walker showing her animal tracks and signs of other people who had been there before them. The sun was beginning to set when they finally made their way back to the lake and the canoe. “I want to row,” Alex said as she got in and picked up the oars. “Okay, I’ve always been a supporter of women’s lib.” “Liar, you’re a true cowboy who believes women should be barefoot and pregnant and in the kitchen.” Walker got a Cheshire grin and Alex narrowed her eyes at him. “What are you thinking?” “You just gave me a great visual image.” “Of what?” “Of you, standing in the kitchen at the ranch, cooking in your bare feet with your stomach heavy with my child.”

A thrill went down Alex’s spine as she visualized him coming in and placing his hand on her distended belly and then kissing her, his rugged handsome face, beaming with love and pride. “Chauvinist,” she called him, trying to shake the image. “No, I pictured you barefoot, but wearing your prosecutor’s suit. You’d just come back from work, championing the innocent and prosecuting the evil doers when you’d kicked off your shoes and started on dinner. And as soon as I came in, I washed up and helped.” Alex laughed at him and splashed a few drops of water at him from the oar. “Too late, Cowboy,” she told him.

Alex rowed the canoe to the dock and Walker secured it and then they both got out and stood on the dock looking back across the lake, remembering the day they’d shared. Walker looked up at the sky and said, “Uh oh, we’re in for a storm.” “Really? That’s great!” Alex said.

“Great? What’s so great about it?” “Well, we have plenty of hot cocoa, a fireplace, a Jacuzzi, hmm… yes; I think I’m going to like being stuck inside with a storm outside.” “Tell that to Trent and Carlos.” “Oh, I didn’t think of that. Well, I hope they see the sky and head back to the lodge.” Walker shrugged, “I doubt Carlos will pay attention to it, but maybe Trent noticed.” “Well, I’m not going to worry about it. They’re two grown men, capable of taking care of themselves. Plus, I want to be selfish and just focus on you.” Walker smiled at her, “Okay, race you inside.” “Last one in the hot tub has to give the other one a full body massage.” “You’re on!” Walker said as he grabbed up the backpack and raced up the stairs.

Walker beat Alex to the hot tub, but she wasn’t worried. She turned on the bubbles and while Walker stood with his one foot in the air, pulling off his boot, she gave him a shove, sending him into the water. She’d waited until he got his boots off, so they weren’t ruined, but he was fully dressed otherwise. “Stop trying to cheat,” she told him. “It doesn’t count unless you’re undressed.” “You’re going to pay for that, Alex!” Walker threatened when he’d caught his breath. Alex was pulling off her jeans and laughed at him. “Get ready to give that massage, Cowboy,” she taunted. Walker tried to pull his jeans off, but they were glued to his body with water. He pulled himself out of the hot tub and Alex hopped in, completely bare. “I win!” she shouted triumphantly, Walker still struggling with his soaking wet jeans. “You cheat!” Walker exclaimed. “Hey, a girl’s gotta use her brains. I may not be able to outrun you, but I can outwit you.”

Walker finally managed to pull his jeans off and then he pulled off his socks and they landed with a ‘splat’ on the floor. His soggy sweater followed and finally, his briefs. They were so plastered to his body that they might as well not be on anyway. Alex noted that the horseplay had definitely gotten his juices going. He joined her in the tub and she sat across from him with a devilish grin on her face. She knew that there would be consequences, but being able to ‘get’ Walker was worth the price she’d pay. He so rarely got his feathers ruffled. She began to giggle and soon was laughing loudly. Walker just sat on his side of the Jacuzzi and glared at her.

When Alex finally got her laughter back under control, she tried to apologize. “Walker, I’m sorry, you were just so…” She started to laugh again, ruining her repentant ploy. “Keep it up, Alex. You’re going to find yourself outside in the storm yet.” “You wouldn’t do that,” she claimed. “Oh yeah? Watch me.” “If you do, I’ll tell Trivette all about you in the hot tub with all of your clothes on and swallowing water like a fish.” Walker’s eyes narrowed, “You’re getting yourself into awful hot water, Alex.” “Well, it is a hot tub,” she said as she began to laugh again.

It was some time later, after they had both relaxed in the warm water that Alex got up the nerve to claim her prize. “You owe me a massage, Walker.” “Yeah, well you owe me an apology.” “I said I was sorry,” she told him. “It doesn’t count if you’re laughing throughout it.” She smiled, “I’m truly sorry. What can I do to make it up to you?” “How about we start with you giving me a massage?” Alex chewed on the side of her mouth. “Okay, I guess if I’m to be sentenced for my crime, I can handle that.” “I’ll think of the rest later.” “Watch it; remember you’re dealing with an ADA.” “I’m still investigating the crime, there may be added charges later,” Walker told her.

Alex moved over to his side of the Jacuzzi and Walker turned so that his arms were crossed on the side, his head leaning against them and his back to her. Alex began with his shoulders, digging deeply into the muscles there. She smoothed down each arm and then moved to his back, sliding down each vertebrae and then back up again. Her hands went down to his firm buttocks and she used her thumbs to dig into the tissue there, knowing where his sensitive places were and spending extra time on them. “Turn around,” she instructed. Walker did as she told him, but kept his arms on the side and his head back with his eyes closed.

Alex began on his pectoral muscles, smoothing them and then kneading them. She let her hands trail down his abdomen and then she leaned forward and kissed his nipples, sucking on them each in turn. Alex’s hands went to his thighs and she balanced against them and then took a deep breath and dove under the water, finding his aroused shaft with her mouth and slipping it in as far as she could. Walker let out a low cry as she took him by surprise, her assault sudden and with no warning. Alex slipped her hands under his buttocks and brought him up so that his lower half floated on the surface while his arms anchored him to the side.

Standing between his legs, she used her hands to massage his throbbing member that sprang to life at her touch. She cupped the sacs below and ran them through her fingers until he moaned again. She then slipped her wet hands up his length and held him tall and proud so that she could once again take him into her mouth. She slid down over him, slowly swallowing as much as she could. Walker’s head was flung back, but he struggled to bring it forward, to watch as she pleasured him. Her head began to bob up and down as she began to slide him in and out, her mouth only able to accommodate a little over a third of his length. Her hand encircled the lower part of his shaft, completing the stroke.

Alex’s pace became faster and then she slowed, pulling him out of her mouth with a ‘pop’ and then licking up one side and down the other. This time, she grabbed the two round globes and massaged them gently, her tongue swirling his tip. Walker was holding on for all he was worth. Alex grabbed him and smoothed him across her lips. “Am I forgiven?” she asked as she looked into his eyes with the look of a true seductress. “Not yet,” he gritted out between clenched teeth. She laughed and then placed him back into her mouth and began to work herself up and down his length, taking him to the edge and then stopping again. “Now?” “No!” Alex leaned forward and swallowed him down to the utmost point she could take him. She held him there and created a strong vacuum with her mouth, listening to his moans and then pulling off of him once again. “Alex, if you don’t let me come…” he threatened.

Alex was enjoying the feeling of power, knowing that in this one thing, he was able to be as weak as she. Their lovemaking was built on absolute trust and each knew that each would tease and torment and push only as far as the other could take it, never crossing that line from pleasure to pain. She looked at the engorged organ in her hand and knew that he was nearly to that point. She leaned forward once more and swirled her tongue over his tip and then swallowed him down once more, her hand pumping away along the length of his shaft. She felt the tightening and pulled up just as he erupted. Her hand continued its motion, pumping him to completion. Once he finished ejaculating, she leaned forward once more and licked the smooth head of his spent shaft. “Now am I forgiven?” she wanted to know. “Oh, god, yes!” Walker groaned, barely capable of speech.

Alex gloated, knowing that she had just brought him to a climax that had shaken him to his toes. She let him lower back into the water and then she swam up to him and kissed him, her tongue delving into his mouth. When she pulled back, his eyes were open, staring at her in wonder. “I’ll let you rest up and then, you can pay me back later,” she told him. She climbed out of the Jacuzzi feeling slightly dizzy from being in the heated water too long. She scooped up her clothes and his wet ones and then headed out to the downstairs bathroom where she laid the whole bundle in the sink. She got two towels out of the closet and brought one to him. Walker had managed to lift his body out as far as the edge of the hot tub. She gave him his towel and then wrapped hers around her and headed to the master bathroom upstairs to shower and wash the chlorine from her hair.

By the time Alex was finished in the bathroom, Walker had managed to make his way upstairs. He went in to take his shower and she pulled on her terry robe and slippers and headed down to make supper while he showered. She set the table with candles and when Walker came down to join her, she asked him to light a fire in the fireplace.

The entire atmosphere was incredibly romantic and could have been a scene from a movie. Each was wearing a terry robe with nothing underneath. Alex’s hair was soft around her face that was free of makeup. Walker’s red beard and hair contrasted with the white of the terrycloth. They had snagged the robes from the lodge, both finding that they liked them. Walker had asked the desk to add them to their bill. The candles lit the table and the fireplace provided the only other light. The windows were dark and the wind had picked up, the branches waving frantically outside. Alex had prepared a simple meal of grilled steak and salad with a red wine.

She brought the dishes over to the table and laid them out while Walker poured the wine. The two sat and talked quietly, each recounting the day and the time they’d shared together. The smiles they shared were those shared between two people who know and love each other to the extent that the world around them had faded away. There were soft, brief touches that heightened their senses. They sat close together, leaning toward each other as if they didn’t want to miss a word the other said. The warmth from the crackling fire cocooned them as did the warmth of their love for each other.

When they’d finished their meal, Walker told Alex, “Go sit in front of the fire and relax. I’ll clean up this mess.” She smiled at him and leaned over to trail a finger down his cheek and across his lips. Walker caught her hand and placed her finger into his wine glass, wetting it, and then he stuck it into his mouth and sucked it. Alex gasped as her body tightened in response to his action. He pulled her finger out, swirled his tongue around it and stared into her eyes. “Wow,” Alex murmured. Walker smiled, “Compared to what you did to me, that’s nothing.” “I did that?” Alex asked in wonder. It always amazed her, the effect she had on him.

“Go, so I can get started on this,” he told her as he waved to the dirty dishes. Alex stood and Walker handed her her glass of wine to take with her. Alex walked to the large overstuffed couch that held the place of honor in front of the fireplace. She curled up on the end of it and pulled the afghan off the back of it and covered herself with it. She sat there listening to the rain begin to lash against the windows as she watched the flames devour the wood in the fireplace.

Walker rinsed the dishes and placed them in the dishwasher. He decided that they could wait to run it in the morning. The sound of the dishwasher would impinge on the atmosphere this mountain chalet had. He refilled his wine glass, brought the bottle over and finished it off in Alex’s glass. He set the empty bottle on the table behind the couch and then came around and scooted Alex over so that he was against the oversized armrest and she was curled up against him.

Walker picked up a strand of Alex’s hair and twirled it around his finger. She continued to stare into the fire and sip her wine, but she was acutely aware of everything about him. She could smell the clean man smell he exuded, her nostrils twitched as she inhaled it. She felt the tug of his fingers as they wound and rewound her hair. She could hear him breathing and was so aware of him that she even knew when he swallowed.

Outside, lightening and thunder were added to the mix. Trent and Carlos huddled under their tent, fully dressed and wrapped in their sleeping bags. They tried desperately to stay dry and warm until morning when they planned to hightail it back to the lodge. They’d tried to light a fire, but everything was too damp and wouldn’t burn. The skies had opened up and a river ran through the bottom of their tent. They prepared themselves for a thoroughly miserable night.

“Listen to that thunder,” Walker’s mellow voice broke through Alex’s hazy thoughts. “Mmm… yes, I think it sounds nice, deep and masculine.” Walker smiled and tugged her head back a little to make her look at him. “Honey, I think you’ve had enough wine,” he said. Alex smiled in return, “I feel warm all over.” Walker took her empty glass from her fingers. “For someone who rarely drinks, you sure put away a great deal of this tonight.” She gave him a smile that didn’t take offense at his observations. Her father was a recovering alcoholic, so she rarely drank, knowing how it had destroyed so many years of his life, but tonight was one of those nights out of time. She didn’t feel guilty or ashamed for drinking a bottle of wine with her lover. It was a rare wonderful occasion and there was only pleasure to be had on this magical night.

Walker set the two empty glasses down on the table behind the couch and then shifted Alex so that she was draped over his chest. “You’re not going to fall asleep on me are you?” he asked. “No way, I am way too hot to sleep.” “Want me to take the afghan off of you?” Walker asked tongue-in-cheek, knowing that it wasn’t the blanket that was making her hot. “For starters,” Alex replied. Walker smiled and pulled the afghan off, dropping it on the floor in front of the couch.

Alex’s fingers found the sash that held Walker’s robe together and loosened it. Her nose buried itself between his lapels that fell apart without the sash to hold them together. She reached her nose in and breathed in the soap and man smell. Smelling wasn’t enough by far, so she let her tongue reach out for a taste. This was one delicious man she’d gotten herself. He tasted of wine and something indefinable, but it was a taste she loved. She rooted around until she found his male nipple and clamped down on it, sucking it as if she were nursing.

Walker’s hand buried itself into her hair and held her head in place as he let his head drop back and just reveled in her ministrations. As she moved over to the other side of his chest, kissing and tasting the route in between his nipples, Walker’s fingers delved under the collar of Alex’s robe. He traced the nape of her neck, sending chills all the way down her spine to her toes. He moved around to the front of her neck and slid his fingers inside. Alex lifted her head and he took advantage of her move to reach on down lower until he felt the beginning of the swell of her breast.

Alex shifted so that she was now straddling him and she sat up to give him better access. Walker reached his fingers to the sash of her robe and he opened it and then ran his hands inside of it over her warm smooth skin. He took both hands up to the underside of her breasts and then he cupped and lifted them, enjoying the feel of their weight as they rested in his palms. He traced lines over them, softly tickling the sensitive skin so that streaks of lightening raced down low in her belly.

Alex leaned forward, planting her arms on the armrest on either side of Walker’s head. Her breasts were now in easy reach of his mouth. Not a man to pass up such a wonderful opportunity, he guided one nipple into his eager mouth. As he licked and sucked her tight nipple, his fingers squeezed and tweaked the other. When he heard her moan, he knew that it was time to taste the second nipple. His mouth clamped down on it and she gave a little cry as her entire universe tunneled down to that one connection, his mouth and her breast.

Walker’s hands reached inside her robe and stroked down her sides, cupping her ribcage, smoothing down her waist and finally, grabbing her hips. He lifted her slightly and settled her back down so that his arousal rested against her belly. His hands encouraged her hips to move up and down his throbbing shaft as it glided against her sleek abdomen and became wet from her juices.

Once he was coated in her lubricating moisture, he lifted her again, only to settle her onto the bell shaped tip of him. Alex braced herself against the armrest with straight arms as she felt him nudge her entrance and then find the opening and slowly penetrate into it. Her breathing was now coming in gasps and moans as he allowed her to sink onto him and swallow him up in her depths. She felt the stretching sensation as he pressed against her silken walls, demanding them to open up to accept him. As she continued to sink, she began to believe that she would never bottom out. He seemed to be delving into her for an incredibly long time. She held her breath the last couple of inches until he was firmly planted inside of her. She felt the tip of him pressing against her cervix, as her body took him all the way in.

Once he was fully embedded, Walker held her still and returned to his fascination with her breasts. They hung over his face and he reached up to nip first one nipple and then the other. Alex bent her arms, letting her upper body lower slightly and he sucked the complete aureole into his mouth, using his tongue to swirl around the sensitive peak. He released one hand from her hip and reached between them, searching out the nub of flesh that brought her the most pleasure. He reached between her feminine lips and found it swollen out of its tiny hood. He gently pinched it between his thumb and forefinger and only the loud clap of thunder was able to drown out her cry of pleasure.

Alex no longer had the ability of rational thought. All she knew was his touch, his penetration. She felt each point of contact with him and she reveled in each distinct one. His fingers stroked up and down her clitoris, giving her increasing increments of pleasure. Alex’s hips began to move in rhythm with his hand and he was pulled from within her, only to be pushed firmly back into place. “I’m going to ride you, Cowboy, until I can’t ride anymore,” she promised him.

Walker reached his hands up inside her robe and stroked down her spine, tickling it so that she arched her back and pressed her pelvis even more intimately against his. “Ride, Alex,” he encouraged her as his hands returned to her hips and augmented the rocking motions of her hips. Alex took him at his word and she began a punishing rhythm, bracing herself, once again, against the arm of the couch and pumping her hips rapidly. His body bucked wildly beneath hers, giving her the sensation of bronco busting; only this bronco was firmly connected. Walker strained to maintain control as the friction of her slick walls brought him to the point of climax. He waited, wanting to please her, but his focus was lost when she cried out and he felt her walls clamp down around him. He spurted into her, pumping more and more of his essence into her with each motion. His fingers went back to her clitoris and he milked every last drop of climax from her.

Alex collapsed down onto his body, her head coming to rest on his chest just below his chin. Walker’s arms encircled her and he arranged her robe so that it covered her. Reaching down to the floor, he pulled the afghan up and added it over the top of her. “Oh, Walker, I don’t want it to be over,” Alex sighed into his chest. She was sated for the moment, but she wanted to explore even more territory and to reach new heights. Walker kissed her sweat covered temple and said, “Rest now, I’ll wake you soon, and this time, I get to do all the work.” He felt her lips touch against his chest, “Okay. Hey, Cowboy.” “Yes?” “Thanks for the ride, it was the wonderful.” “You can ride me anytime, Alex.” “Hold that thought,” she mumbled as the combination of the hike, the Jacuzzi, the dinner, the wine, the fire and mostly, the love she’d shared with Walker, lulled her to sleep.

Alex woke up to the sensation of fingertips trailing lightly down her spine. She burrowed into Walker’s chest and waited as he inched his way down, lower and lower until he reached her rounded buttocks. His fingers walked down to the base of her bottom and pulled her up, causing her front side to rub its way up his body until he was able to nibble on her breasts. Alex’s slumber was shattered and she wanted to complain, but found that she couldn’t. “Wait,” she pleaded. “What?” Walker asked. “The sound of the rain is making me need the bathroom. I’ll be right back.” Walker chuckled, but released her.

While she was gone, he stoked the embers of the fire until it was once again a roaring blaze. He opened the linen closet and pulled out blankets to make a pallet on the floor and tossed a couple of pillows down as well. He covered this with a sheet and waited for her return.

Alex came back to the kitchen area and boiled water. “What are you doing?” Walker asked. “Making hot chocolate, it’s a prerequisite for this kind of weather.” She finished preparing it and popped a couple of marshmallows into each mug and then came back over to the living room and sat with her back against the base of the couch. Walker sat next to her and they sipped their cocoa and gazed at the fire.

“Walker?” “Yes, Alex.” “What do you think is going to happen?” “What do you mean?” “I mean us. What do you think is going to happen in our future?” “I think…” Walker turned slightly and lifted his arm over her shoulders, pulling her into his side, “that we are going to live happily ever after.” “Do you?” “Yes, I absolutely do. Why? Are you having doubts?” “No… yes… I don’t know.” “Well, at least you’re decisive,” he joked. Alex pinched his thigh. “We’re just so busy all the time. Ever since we met, you’ve gone your way and I’ve gone mine. How will we ever make a marriage work with our schedules?”

Walker took a deep breath and let it out on a sigh. “Alex, I don’t know. It scares me too sometimes, but I think that we’ll just have to learn to change our priorities. When you’re my wife, my commitment to you is going to have to come first; before my friends, before the reservation, before Kick Drugs and before being a Texas Ranger.” “But how practical is that? I mean, we’ve been together a long time now and look at us. We actually had to leave Dallas, send Trivette to the hospital and Trent and Carlos out to face the elements, to get three days alone together.” Walker chuckled, knowing that she didn’t mean that they were actually responsible for their friends’ plights. “I think the fact that we came to Utah shows how much we both care about our relationship. Did you really have the time to take off from work and HOPE Center right now?” “No.” “Right, and I didn’t really have the time to take off work and leave the ranch right now either. But if we always make each other the first priority, then I think we can make it.”

Alex sat and thought for a bit about what he had said. She agreed that they needed to change the way they prioritized things. For years, they had tried not to spend time alone together; their feelings were too intense to hide when they did that. The whitewater rafting trip was a prime example of that. One night alone in the woods and they were making mad passionate love. But, even after they had become lovers, they still found that they only had stolen moments. And now that they were engaged, it was even worse than before. “What if we have children?” Alex asked. “You mean, when we have children, because Alex, I want children with you.” “You do?” “Yes, lots of them.” “Oh yeah, I think we’ve had this discussion once before. You wanted an even dozen?” Walker chuckled, “Well, maybe not that many, but I do want children. And Alex, by the time we have them, we’re going to be good at putting our family first. We just have to get serious about it and we both have to try.”

They both sat and thought about all of their commitments and what they could give up. “You’ve got Kick Drugs going strong now, with lots of instructors teaching at so many schools.” “Yes, and I’ve been able to back off a bit from my obligations there. It’s always going to be important to me, but I won’t have to give so much of my time to it as I have in the past.” “And HOPE House is getting off to a strong start. I always want to be a part of it, but Josie is just an amazing manager. With her running things, I know that I’ll be able to take a backseat after we get firmly established.” “And Commander Briscoe asked me to consider some changes at work as well.” “Changes? You never told me about that. What kind of changes?” “I wanted to tell you, I just haven’t had the opportunity. He wants to partner Trivette and me with a couple of rookies. It’s a new idea he wants to try. We’ll work as a unit, with four Rangers. I’ll be the senior Ranger and I’ll do more of the coordinating and less of the investigating. Trivette and I will still get out for the big stuff, but the rookies will do most of the leg work, stakeouts and things like that.” “Walker, really? That would be so great!” “Yeah, well, it’s hard to change, but I told the Commander that I would think about it and get back to him. He said that if it was successful, he might add another two rookies in a couple of years and then I’ll be leading a unit of six.” “So, you’ll be like a mentor?” “Yes, I guess that’s what he has in mind. And with Trivette’s computer skills, he’s more useful in the office than out of it. We’ll still be partners, but we might team up with the rookies in the field for training or Trivette might guide them through computer searches to teach them that end of the job. I guess even an institution as old as the Texas Rangers has to bow to the modern age.” “Hey, you do okay with a truck instead of a horse.” Walker smiled and kissed her temple. “When would this change happen?” “I don’t know, six months or so.” Alex got quiet for a bit, digesting this new information. She knew that Walker wouldn’t admit it, but the Commander was grooming him for a promotion to Captain. It may be years down the road, but she wouldn’t complain if his life kept him more in the office and closer to her. He’d be safer too. 

“I guess I should think about taking that promotion too,” Alex said. “What promotion?” he asked. “When Deputy DA Johnson retires next March, the DA wants me to be his deputy. I’ve acted in that capacity a couple of times in the past, when a DA left or whatever, but I’ve been officially offered the position.” “When did this happen?” “Last week. I was called in and offered the promotion.” “What are the pros and cons?” Alex shrugged, “I’ll be doing more managing of people, delegating cases to more junior ADA’s.” “You do a lot of that now.” “Yes, I guess I do. I’ll still try the important media cases, but the smaller cases that I love so much will go to someone else.” Walker knew what she meant. It wasn’t always the drug dealers and the organized crime bosses that needed to be prosecuted. There were robbers who held up small businesses and terrified their owners, there were husbands who beat their wives, there were drunk drivers and countless other crimes that were committed daily. Alex thrived on doing these cases.

Walker debated, but then he said, “Alex, I don’t want our relationship to be based on sacrifices. If you don’t want to take the promotion, then don’t.” “Are you kidding? I’ll be making a third more money. I’ll have more regular hours. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of overtime with this job, but I’ll have to take cases home less often. It’s a great step for my career.” “But you’ll have to give up some of what you love the most about that career. I know; I’m facing that same type of decision.” Alex looked up at him, “But you’ll do it, won’t you?” “Yes, but I want to.” “Yeah, me too. I guess that’s part of growing, always moving up to the next level, but missing what’s left behind.” “Alex, as long as you never leave me behind, I think you should continue to grow.” Alex turned and looked at Walker. “I could never leave you behind; you’re the single most important thing in my life. I love you so much that I couldn’t breathe if you weren’t in my life.” “I guess that says it all, doesn’t it?” “What do you mean?” “We both want this relationship to work more than anything else in our lives. So now we just have to act on our feelings.”

Alex took off her robe, set down her mug, and moved over to the pallet on the ground. “Okay,” she said with a smile. “Alex, that’s not what I meant.” “I know, but I don’t think the DA would appreciate a call from me at this time of night, so this is the best I can do.” Walker set his mug down, undid his robe, and crawled over to cover her body with his. “I like your contingency plan,” Walker told her and then leaned down and kissed her.

He lifted back up and looked at her, stroking her hair back from her forehead. “Love isn’t enough, is it?” she asked him. He shook his head, “No, it’s not enough by itself, but we have a lot more going for us. We have friendship and trust and respect and humor and…” “Sex,” she supplied, “don’t forget about sex.” “Never,” he groaned and leaned down to kiss her again. “Sex with you is the most amazing experience known to man.” “Known to this man only!” she clarified. “Absolutely!” he agreed as he kissed her once again. “I think it’s my turn this time, don’t you?” Walker asked as he began to seduce her. “Yes, I think so too,” she agreed.

Walker kissed her thoroughly, his tongue tasting the deepest corners of her mouth. He smothered her in a deep passionate kiss and then pulled back to softly touch her mouth with the lightness of a butterfly. He leaned on one elbow while his other hand traced a circular pattern down her body. Each touch and caress made her heart beat that much faster. She felt the moisture pool between her legs and she sunk deeper into the makeshift mattress, floating in the sensual haze he shrouded her in.

Walker finally left her mouth to taste her skin. He pressed tiny kisses along her cheekbones and chin. He planted wet open mouthed kisses on her neck and down her chest. He opened his mouth to swallow as much of her breast as he could manage and then pulled back up, wetting it with his tongue as he came up to then swallow its twin.

Alex’s hand moved restlessly up his back and back down again. She had her head thrown back and her body curved up toward his. She raised her leg and ran it down the length of his, parting her thighs in the process and allowing his hand to dip down and test her readiness for his possession. She felt his fingers dip into her and stretch her open, sliding in and out of her in a slow lazy pace. She pressed her hips up, wrapping her leg around his waist and pulling him toward her, trying to pull him into her.

Walker’s fingers left her opening to smooth her fluids over his pulsing shaft. He continued to suck and nip her breasts as he grasped his own erection and held it to her entrance, pushing it into her welcoming warmth.

Shifting slightly, Walker’s weight was now bearing Alex down into the padding. Her legs opened around his waist and she wrapped her ankles around his lower legs, binding him to her. Their bodies interlocked as they were made to. Walker pulled his head up to look into her face. Alex was lost in the feelings he was evoking and with her head thrown back and her eyes closed, focusing on their union, she didn’t see the hunger in his face. “Alex, look at me,” Walker commanded and he waited as her chin came down and her eyes opened.

Alex saw the image of Walker’s face flickering in the firelight. He looked like the conqueror and there was conquest in his gaze. There was love too, and tenderness. She saw those in his eyes as the fire caught a new log and burned brighter for a moment.

Walker watched the emotions flicker over Alex’s face just as the light from the flames flickered over her features. He saw passion, love, joy, and happiness. “Do you still have doubts?” he asked Alex. She studied him for a moment and then shook her head. “No, you’ve chased them all away. Now please, take me back to that mountaintop you took me to this afternoon, where everything was so incredibly beautiful.” He knew that she meant to the feeling she’d felt there and not the actual location.

Complying with her wishes, he raised his hips and ground down into her. “Yes,” she murmured as her eyes closed again and her head fell back in wonder. All the gentleness left his face as he rose up on his elbows and pulled himself out of her only to plunge back in, completing the stroke so that he pressed his pelvis against hers, fully engaging her clitoris in the process. His long drawn out strokes increased in pace, but he never forgot that extra push, as he bottomed out into her, maximizing her pleasure.

Sweat shone on her brow, as she clenched her muscles to fight each and every withdrawal from her body. “Walker, I’m coming, oh!” she moaned as he increased the pace yet again. “Let it go, Alex!” he encouraged her, feeling the muscles that held him fast begin to flutter as the contractions of her climax overtook her. She cried out as he paused in his motions to draw out her sensations to their fullest extent. “I love you!” she cried out as she was transported back to that place Walker had taken her earlier that day when he’d told her how much he loved her.

Alex was drifting, anchored only by the deep penetration of Walker’s still hard erection. Her arms flew out to her sides and she breathed deeply, relaxing her legs open. Taking advantage of the relaxing of her tight grip of him, Walker resumed his thrusts and quickly came into her, crying out his love, as he too climaxed.

Walker pulled off of Alex and lay beside her, pulling her into him in spoon fashion. His arm and leg covered her and held her tightly to him as they both gasped for breath. Their breathing slowly returned to normal and then evened out as they both fell into a deep sleep.

Just before dawn, Walker woke up chilled. The fire had finally burned itself out and he was lying without cover, listening to the rain continue to fall outside. He shifted slightly and realized that he was pressed up tightly to Alex, so tightly that his soft penis lay in the crease of her buttocks. In her sleep, Alex snuggled back against him for warmth and that was the end of his determination not to wake her. His sleeping member sprang back to life and her warm buttocks cupped his aching need.

Walker reached forward and pressed her top leg forward, opening her to him. He placed his tip at her entrance and rubbed up and down, causing her body to produce the lubricating fluids that would ease his entrance even in her sleep. He pushed up into her, causing her to wake up with a gasp. When she realized what was happening, she was already too far gone to protest. He was fully embedded into her from behind and his hand had reached forward to rub against the top of her slit, exciting her even more.

Alex’s first conscious move was to scoot her bottom back against him and lift her top leg to give him better access. Walker took advantage of the new position to begin pumping himself into her as his hand played with her most sensitive parts. His thrusts were short and deep, picking up the pace until both were panting. Alex braced her arm on the ground and pushed back against him each time he pushed forward. She felt the pleasure coiling up inside her, but fought to stave it off, not wanting this to be over too quickly. As often as they had joined together over the last two days, it hadn’t doused the flames that shot through her each and every time he touched her.

Walker felt the tension in his lower abdomen and the tightening of his scrotum, knowing that the build up to completion was near. He paused a moment, taking in breath and slowing his race to the finish line. “Walker, stop,” she gritted out between her teeth as his hand tormented her pleasure spot. “What?” he asked, not sure what she meant. He had already stopped his thrusts so that he could draw out the moment before climax, but his hand continued its invasion of her moist flesh. She rolled back slightly against him and reached her hand down to trap his. “Don’t make me come too soon,” she pleaded. Understanding now what she meant, he ran his hand up the front of her body and found her breasts to occupy himself with. He captured one nipple between thumb and forefinger and squeezed down. Alex retaliated by wiggling her bottom back against him.

Walker challenged, “Oh, you want to play dirty do you?” and he reached for her other nipple and squeezed it hard, almost to the point of pain. “Walker!” she cried out, clamping down hard on his embedded length. Any thought of slowing down the pace flew out the window as they were now in a battle of wills to try and force the other over the edge. Walker placed his hand on Alex’s hip to steady her and he began to thrust again, this time, with long deep punishing thrusts. Alex threw her top leg back to cover his and open up her front to him again, giving him access to the part of her that simply could take no more. Her scream was unintelligible as she lost the power of speech. The explosion inside her so powerful that all she could do was make high pitched vocalizations as her body ground down on his shaft and he too was pushed beyond the limits of control. His attempts at speech were no more successful than hers. His grunting mating sounds as primal as any wild beast. The two spent lovers collapsed and fell instantly back to sleep.

It wasn’t long before Walker woke up again. Alex’s body heat kept his front side comfortable, but his backside was definitely chilled. He eased away from her and covered her sleeping form with the afghan that lay in a pile on the floor. Kneeling in front of the fireplace, he quietly scooped out the ashes from the night before into a bucket that was kept handy for the chore. He then laid the logs onto the grate and lit them to begin to warm the room. He sat back on his heels and watched Alex snuggle down under the comforter, missing the body heat he had been supplying her with. Her hair was tousled, her lips were slightly swollen and she looked completely sated. He smiled to himself, thinking of the events of the previous day and night. He was one lucky man, he decided. To find a woman who matched his passion as well as she matched everything else was a complete miracle to him.

Walker thought about the other women in his life. There had only been a handful that were more than casual relationships, but each paled in comparison to Alex. She was beautiful, strong, brave, intelligent, kind, compassionate, passionate, and loving. He had definitely hit the jackpot when he’d found her. He thought about the conversation that they’d had the night before. She was right, they were both far too busy to give their relationship the time it needed. He vowed there and then to make some major changes in his life. She was far too important to him to risk losing her by putting her anywhere but first on his list of priorities.

He decided to talk to her about holding off on setting a date for their wedding until they both had made some adjustments in their lifestyles and prepared themselves for married life. He knew that they would want to start a family soon after the wedding and they would have to be an awful lot better about their time commitments outside of the home if they were to raise their children the way they both wanted to. He promised himself that he would talk to the Commander as soon as he got back to Dallas.

He was going to agree to become a Division Chief and to take a step back from his dangerous life as a Texas Ranger. He would need to take more precautions, he wanted to be there for his wife and his children and the odds were about even the way he was currently doing his job. A peace washed over him as he made the decisions that would pave the way to a future with Alex. He reached out and stroked her tangled hair back away from her face. God he loved the woman! He eventually roused himself enough to go take a shower and greet the day.

Alex woke to the smell of fresh coffee. She lifted the afghan and tried to sit up. It was then that she realized just how sore her body was. She had been thoroughly loved the night before and she was going to need a long hot soak in a tub if she was going to even be able to walk normally. She stood up and raked her hair back from her face and then stumbled into the kitchen and reached for the coffee that Walker held out to her. She leaned back against the counter, but gasped and straightened back up as her bare bottom encounter the cold cupboards. Walker chuckled and moved to stand behind her, pulling her back to lean against him as she sipped the warm brew.

“Don’t go getting any ideas,” she warned him between sips. “Sore?” he asked with a self-satisfied grin. “Sore doesn’t begin to cover it. What did you do to me?” she asked rhetorically. “If I remember correctly, you started it.” “Which time?” she asked with a smirk. “Well… there was the Jacuzzi… and then there was the couch…” “Shut up,” she complained and sipped on the coffee. He chuckled in her ear and reached around her to cup her tender breasts. “Walker…” she warned. “Don’t worry, I’m not starting anything, I was just checking for bruising.” “I’m sure you’ll find it, but if you want to know where I’m the sorest…” Walker cupped her mound and lightly caressed her, “Here?” “Yes, oh don’t…” He removed his hand, knowing that she was struggling to keep from saying ‘don’t stop.’ “Go take a nice long soak in the Jacuzzi, I’ll check on you in a bit.” Alex refilled her mug and shuffled up the stairs to shower first before heading to the Jacuzzi.

Alex joined Walker an hour later and they ate brunch together and then went to the game room to play a game of pool. Walker had challenged her and she could never pass up a challenge from him. After he’d easily beaten her, they moved on to chess where she was the victor. The spent the day simply being together, laughing, talking, occasionally kissing, but just enjoying the time spent with each other.

The rain continued to fall and they were locked indoors until late afternoon when Walker simply couldn’t take it any longer. They dressed warmly and put on raingear that they had brought in case it rained while they camped. They headed back out to the lake and the canoe. Walker dumped out the water that had collected and then helped Alex into the small water craft. He rowed them around the periphery of the lake while the rain fell lightly.

Alex moved back to lean against him and she let the rain fall on her face. The air was chilly, but refreshing, and they took the opportunity to enjoy the fall colors that had begun to show in the leaves of the trees that bordered the lake. Walker decided to take the opportunity to talk to Alex about their wedding. “Alex?” “Mmm hmm?” she responded, not particularly inclined to talk as she drank in the beauty of her surroundings. “You know how we talked about how we need to make some changes in our lifestyles before we get married?” “Yes,” she answered, perking up. Walker bringing up the topic of marriage was always worth listening to.

“I was thinking this morning that maybe we should wait until we get our lives under control before we add one more thing to them.” “You’re not trying to get out of marrying me are you?” “Well… the thought had crossed my mind…” Alex elbowed Walker in the gut. After an ‘oof’ sound as the air rushed out of his body, Walker protested, “Hey, ouch!” “Good, you deserved that and more. You always tease me.” “I know, I’m sorry, I’ll be good… especially while I have my arms busy rowing and can’t protect myself.”

“What were you going to say?” Alex finally prodded. “Promise not to get mad?” “No,” she answered. “Oh, well… promise not to cause me injury?” “I’m not promising anything at this point, Cowboy.” “I guess I’ll have to take my chances.” “Tread very carefully,” she warned. “I was just going to say that since we both are predicting about six months before we see any change in our schedules, that we postpone setting a date until then.” Alex was quiet for a bit and then said, “I guess I’m torn. Part of me would like to just go find a justice of the peace and get married right now and let everything work itself out.” “And the other part?” Walker asked, hoping that part was more sensible. “I guess I agree that we should wait. As busy as I am now, I know that I don’t have time to plan a wedding too. And I know that you’re going to want a big one with all the frills.” “Hmmm… that justice of the peace thing is looking more attractive by the minute.” Alex repeated the elbow motion, only this time, she was gentler. “Alex, don’t break any of my ribs!” “Yeah right, there’s a real chance of that.” “Next thing you know, I’ll be lying in a hospital bed next to Trivette.” “Walker…” Alex warned. “Truce!” he cried, “maybe we should continue this conversation on dry land.” “Look around Walker, there is no such thing as ‘dry’ anything around here.” Walker chuckled, glad that she still had her sense of humor, but he shelved the conversation for later that evening.

After mooring the boat, Walker reached for Alex’s hand and they walked the circumference of the lake. The rain was soft enough that it didn’t soak them, but the ground was so wet that by the time they had walked through the leaves and grasses, their shoes and pant legs were soaked. They peeled off their clothes outside on the deck, fairly certain that there was no one to observe them, and headed on into the Jacuzzi to repeat their newly established ritual.

After a relaxing soak to warm them through, they headed on into the shower and took turns soaping each other. Walker was on his best behavior, touching her lightly and gently and not taking it any further than an occasional caress or a gentle kiss. This was a side of him that Alex felt his friends would be even more shocked to discover than the blatantly passionate side she was also privy to. While she turned off the water, Walker reached for towels and handed her one. She stepped out and wrapped it around herself and then sat on the small stool in the bathroom and watched him dry off.

Alex loved looking at Walker’s body. He was in prime condition, his muscles taught and sinewy, but not so big that they were vulgar. She loved his broad shoulders and noticed a few nail marks on them from their lovemaking of the night before. Her eyes traveled down to where his waist tapered, but didn’t indent as a woman’s would, which was one of the reasons she could never wear his jeans. She then looked on down to the hard muscles of his butt. If there was one part of his body that she especially enjoyed looking at, she would have to admit that it was his butt. It looked great in just about anything, but it looked best in the worn jeans he wore around the ranch. Walker in worn jeans with no shirt doing ranch chores, now that could get her hot every time. Hell, just thinking about it was doing that to her. Then again, she decided that it might not be the mental image, but the real life flesh and blood man who was standing looking in the mirror as he trimmed his beard.

Walker paused in what he was doing and looked at her in the mirror. “Like what you see?” he asked, not at all disturbed by her surveillance of his nude form. “Very much,” she answered, knowing that she’d been caught staring and not caring. “Well, it’s a two way street you know. If you get to look, then so do I,” Walker taunted her. Alex stood up and dropped the towel she’d had wrapped around her. “Look all you want,” she offered as she turned to the vanity and picked up her body lotion. She put her foot on the stool she’d been sitting on and began to smooth it on her leg. “You have the best legs I’ve ever seen,” Walker told her. She turned her head sideways and looked at his tapered calf muscles, “Yours are pretty good too. Not as good as your butt, but they’ll do.” Walker smiled, enjoying this daring side that Alex was displaying. He knew that she was going to taunt and torment him tonight and he looked forward to the battle.

Alex finished one leg and switched to the other. “Can I get your back for you?” Walker asked. “Sure,” she said as she handed him the lotion and stood up. Walker squeezed some lotion onto his hand and spread it evenly over her back, smoothing down to cover her buttocks. “You have a great ass too,” he told her. “Why thank you, kind sir,” she said as she turned to take the lotion back. Walker evaded her when she reached for it and squeezed more onto his hand and then smoothed some down each arm and then over her chest, gingerly moisturizing her breasts and noting that they still showed signs of his mishandling the night before. He rubbed some onto her abdomen and then finally handed the bottle back to her. Alex thanked him and moved to the counter to get her face cream out. She’d gone for two full days without make up and she was enjoying the luxury of just pampering her skin. So often, she didn’t have the time.

Walker reached over her shoulder and stayed her hand as it reached for the moisturizer. “Wait, why don’t you use this first?” he asked. Alex looked at what he was holding and saw that it was her facial mask. She had brought it hoping that she would get some time in the lodge to pamper her skin. She took the tube from him and said, “Only if you’ll join me.” “Alex…” he protested. “Really Walker, it feels great. Just try it. Here, sit on the stool and I’ll put it on for you.”

Feeling rather foolish, he nevertheless obeyed her and sat on the stool. “Close your eyes,” she commanded and squeezed the cool cucumber face mask into her hand. She smoothed it over his forehead and down around his eyes and cheekbones. She avoided his beard and mustache, so there wasn’t much area to put it on. “Keep your eyes closed and just sit there and relax,” she commanded while she applied the mask to her own face. “It’s starting to tingle,” he complained. “Yes, it’s drying. It pulls all the impurities from your skin so that when you peel it off, you’re left with a fresh layer of clean skin.” Walker frowned, causing it to crack slightly, but he stayed put.

They sat in the bathroom with the mask on for the prescribed half hour. During that time, Walker asked Alex questions about her beauty routine. He had always admired her looks, but never considered the effort she put into them. She wasn’t overly concerned about her looks, but she did want to extend her youthful appearance as long as possible and she took care of her skin to do so. Alex was amused by the extent of Walker’s interest, but she answered his questions willingly.

“Okay, it’s time to peel it off.” “Okay, what do I do?” Walker asked. She looked at him with the dry green goo on his face. “Just sit there and let me do it,” she told him. She peeled up the edges of the mask and then peeled it off of his skin. “Now you do me,” she offered. It took Walker a little longer, but he managed to get most of her mask off as well. “Now, you have to wash the rest off,” she told him as she smoothed a cleanser onto his skin. She leaned over the sink and ran the water until it was warm and showed him how to wash his face and pat it dry gently.

After he had finished, she smoothed on the moisturizer and asked him how it felt. Walker shrugged his shoulders, “It feels okay,” he said, noncommittally. Alex put some on her own face and smoothed it in. “How does mine feel?” she asked. Walker ran his fingers lightly over his face. “It feels wonderful,” he told her. She smiled and took her turn running her hand over his face. “Yours does too. Do this often enough and it reduces the lines around your eyes from too much sun.” “You always told me that you liked the lines around my eyes.” She grinned at him, “I do.” “So…” he said with eyebrows raised. “So, I like you just the way you are and you don’t have to adopt my beauty regime unless you want to.” He grinned at her and kissed her lips before heading out of the large master bathroom that they’d spent well over an hour in.

Alex dug through his suitcase until she found a large flannel shirt that he hadn’t yet worn. She pulled it on and rolled up the sleeves and then pulled on a pair of her underwear with his socks. Walker had pulled on his usual evening attire of workout pants and t-shirt. He turned to ask her what she wanted for dinner and saw her outfit. “First I let you put all of your face stuff on me and then you steal my clothes. Do you want to switch roles?” he asked her. She smiled at him, “No, I just like being with you and I like wearing your clothes because they have your smell, even after they’ve been laundered.” To emphasize her point, she pulled the collar to her nose and inhaled deeply. Walker shook his head at her and walked up to her, pulling her into his chest. “If a word of what I allowed you to do in the bathroom ever leaves this cabin, I will make sure that you regret it.” “Whatever happens in this magical place, in this magical time out of time, stays between us,” she vowed. He looked at her suspiciously and then decided that she was being straight with him. “Good,” he told her and then kissed her. “I’m hungry, brunch was a long time ago,” he told her. “Yeah, let’s go fix ourselves some dinner.”

They headed downstairs and prepared the meal together, ate together, and washed the dishes together. After they finished, they took mugs of hot chocolate over to the couch and sat in front of the fireplace sipping it. “Do you suppose this is what it’ll be like when we’re married?” Alex asked. “If we’re lucky,” he answered. She smiled at him, “It certainly gives us incentive to rearrange our priorities and make time for a wedding doesn’t it?” “It sure does,” he said, glad that she’d come to her own decision about not rushing into setting a date.

Walker reached for her and pulled her into his side, “So you think we should wait awhile before talking about setting a date?” “Yes, but don’t think you’re off the hook. I’m going to keep hounding you, especially if I feel that you’re stalling.” Walker smiled, “Your persistence is one of the things I love about you.” She smiled and leaned her forehead against his chest. “Walker?” “What is it, honey?” “I was just thinking, tomorrow we have to go back to the lodge, don’t we?” “Yes, we do. We have to get ready to leave and we need to check on Trivette.” “Thank you for bringing me here. You couldn’t have picked a better place. And the things that happened the first few days we came to Utah… I’m over it, Walker. It was awful and frightening and all of that, but… knowing that you love me and being with you, it makes it better.” “I do love you, but the fact that you’ve had a couple of nights without nightmares doesn’t mean they won’t come back.” “I know, but if I have a nightmare, I can call you. And talking to you will make it better.” Walker kissed her hair and hugged her tight. “Always, Alex, and one day, whenever you have a nightmare, all you’ll have to do is reach for me and I’ll be there, always.” “I can do that now. You may not always share my bed, Walker, but whenever I reach for you, you’re always there.”

They sat together, holding each other and letting their feelings swell around them. “Walker?” Alex mumbled against his chest. “Yes?” “I think that if we’re very careful and go slowly, that we could manage to make love tonight.” “I thought you were too sore?” “I’m sore, but I don’t think I’m too sore.” “Alex, I don’t mind just holding you tonight.” “But I do,” she told him and looked up to let him see her eyes. “You’re a wanton woman, Alex,” he told her before bending his head to kiss her.

Walker took his and Alex’s mugs and put them in the kitchen. He put the screen in front of the dying fire and then he scooped her up into his arms and headed upstairs. At the top of the staircase, he paused and said, “Listen.” “What?” “The rain stopped.” “Oh, I can only hear your heart,” she told him, her head pressed against his chest. He smiled and carried her over to the bed before laying her gently down on it.

Walker pulled the socks off of Alex’s feet and then reached up to tug her panties down and off. He began with the bottom button of the flannel shirt and undid each button until he reached the top. He smoothed the shirt back off of her shoulders and she raised up to let it slide off. He piled her clothes, and his, in a heap on the floor and then moved towards her. She slipped under the covers and held them up for him to join her. Walker stopped a moment to turn on the bedside lamp. He wanted to see this beautiful woman he was going to be making love to.

Once he slipped in between the sheets, he pulled her to him and kissed her and then rolled her so that she was crushed under him in a tight loving embrace. He aroused her gently, touching and tasting with feather light touches. He treated her breasts as if they were breakable, cupping them and lightly licking the tips, then blowing them dry. He trailed kisses down her belly and dipped his tongue into her navel.

When he reached the silky hair at her apex, he smoothed it back and away from her hidden treasure. His mouth softly touched her sensitive flesh, his tongue gently lapping and driving her wild. For all of Walker’s care and gentleness, Alex was in flames and was wild with wanting him. She reached into his hair and tugged him back up to her mouth that was begging for the taste of him. Walker complied and poised himself over her, letting her initiate their joining.

Alex’s hand reached down between them and she found his shaft and encircled it, pumping several times to make certain that he was as ready for her as she was for him. She dipped her fingers into her own fluids and smeared the lubricant over his tip and down the width and length of his shaft until he was thoroughly coated. She placed the tip of him at her entrance and pushed her hips up to meet him. Once he had started on the journey into her hidden cavern, she reached her hands around to grasp the butt that she had so admired earlier. It felt as good as it looked, maybe better. Grabbing too handfuls of butt cheek, she pulled him down into her.

Walker resisted her pull and slowed his penetration so that he only went a third of the way in and then he pulled back out, repeating the process to ensure that she was ready and that he was well lubricated before completing the stroke. Once he had managed to insert half of his length into her, she bucked her hips up and strained to take the remaining length. “Alex, slow down,” he said, trying to calm her need. “Walker, forget slow, I need you, now!”

Walker responded to her cry by sinking fully into her and trapping her beneath him with his weight. “Shh…” he admonished her as she cried out and tried to make him pump his hips to finish the journey he was taking her on. “Slow, baby, I want to make this last.” “Walker, I don’t think I can do slow, you drive me wild. I want you so badly,” she pleaded. “I know, but you can do it. Take a deep breath and let it out slowly.” Alex tried to follow his directions, but it was hard to breathe in when her whole body was tense with wanting. “I can’t,” she uttered. “Yes, you can. Come on, baby, try,” he encouraged her, still remaining perfectly still and waiting for her to relax.

It took several deep breaths, but Alex finally got her passion under control. She was strung so tight that she was afraid she would snap. “Kiss me,” he told her. Alex slid her hands up from his buttocks, over his back and into his hair. She pulled his face toward her and began to kiss his lips. She tried to deepen the kiss, but he kept the kisses light and teasing, his tongue darting out to lick her wet lips. Alex moaned against his mouth and then he parted her lips with his tongue and she moaned into his mouth as he penetrated her mouth, mimicking his other penetration. The difference being, he stroked in and out of her mouth, but kept his hips still, pinning her to the bed.

Alex’s focus shifted to his teasing tongue. She loved the feel of it as it glided past the sensitive tissue on the inside of her lips. This is what she enjoyed when she took his erection into her mouth. It was nearly as sensually stimulating as when she took him into her womb; nearly, but not quite. Alex began to curve her hips up in a rolling motion, clamping down on him as she came to the top of the motion and then relaxing down. It was a very small movement, but it got his attention. Walker withdrew from her mouth and raised his upper body up high enough that he could gaze into her impossibly blue eyes. His movement trapped her lower half even more.

Walker watched Alex’s face as she stared at him, concentrating on his eyes and waiting to see him give in to the feelings she was generating in his lower regions. Walker’s eyes were fixed to hers, noting that when her pupils were this dilated, her eyes looked a more midnight blue. His lips slowly curved into a smile and he said, “I love you, you wanton hussy.” Alex grinned back at him and said, “Do you? Do you like when I do this?” and she proceeded to run her nails lightly down his spine causing him to press more deeply into her as she clenched all of her vaginal muscles down hard on him. Walker moaned, “Yes, I like it, oh Alex…” He leaned down and kissed her once and then rose back up, this time easing the pressure of his hips.

He remained poised above her and said, “Look into my eyes and tell me what you feel.” Alex opened her eyes wide as he slowly withdrew from her and then slid back in again. “I feel…” she gasped as he hit home and struggled to speak, “I feel as if you’ve just completed me. You pull away from me and I feel empty and sad, but it only makes your homecoming that much more meaningful. Oh!” she cried as he repeated the motion again. “You fill me so full, you stretch me to the maximum and you give me so much pleasure… Oh! I―I oh god, I’m on fire! And when you come inside of me, I feel your warm fluid spurting into me and I die and go to heaven.”

Walker pumped his hips several more times, watching her pupils dilate even more and her face strain from the effort of keeping them open. “Tell me… tell me what you feel,” she managed to say. “Your walls close around me as I pull out,” he said as he did just that. “And then I press back into you and they open to me, but they remain so tight that I fear that if I leave you again, they won’t welcome me home.” He pumped again, “But they always do. And then when you climax, you clamp down on me so hard that I can’t hold back and I die too, Alex, and go to heaven, only to be brought back to earth by the arms of an angel.”

Alex’s eyes shimmered with tears as he told her what making love was like for him. “You’re the best part of me, Alex. My life began when I met you and it’ll end if I ever lose you.” “You won’t lose me, I’m yours forever. I have to stay with you, I gave you my heart and I can’t live without it.” “You have mine,” he countered and then speech was beyond them as they joined together in the journey that led them both to heaven. Walker’s hips lifted and lowered in conjunction with hers. Gasping out his name, Alex felt her climax overpower her and she strained to keep her eyes open and locked on his as she saw his climax hit him even before she felt the warmth of his seed flood her.

Walker remained still, looking into her eyes and waited until she was back on earth in a cabin in Utah in bed with him. He smiled at her and said, “Never doubt that I want you to be my wife, that I want to have a family with you, that I want to spend my days thinking about you and my nights holding you close. I want to live the rest of my life right here in your arms. I love you Alex, forever and always.” Alex had tears streaming down from her eyes and she said, “I love you too, oh Walker,” and she dipped her head to his neck and cried into it.

Walker rolled to cradle her to him and let her release the excess emotion she had bottled up. She was brave and strong, but sometimes, he had to push her to her very limit to get her to be honest with herself. He knew that this trip had been a mixed bag of joy and terror. He wanted to leave as much of the terror behind and when Alex thought back to their trip to Utah, he wanted her to smile and think of their time in this cabin and not her time in that other cabin with three cruel and vile men. He felt her relax against him and she mumbled, “Thank you, Walker,” before drifting into a deep healing sleep.

The next morning, Alex and Walker packed up their things and cleaned out the refrigerator of all the leftovers. Walker had paid a deposit that would include a service to come in and clean up after they had left. They packed up the SUV and headed straight to the hospital to check on Trivette. When they arrived, they found that he had been released and was ready to check out. Alex looked at Walker suspiciously, suspecting that their arrival to pick him up just in time had not been coincidental, but unable to figure out when he had called to find out when to arrive.

They took Trivette back to the hotel and met Carlos and Trent there. They were regaled with their adventures in the great outdoors of Utah in fall when the weather is predictable only in its capriciousness. They relayed the misery of their night in the horrible thunder and rainstorm that Alex and Walker had so enjoyed. They had cut short their camping trip and had been at the lodge enjoying the local activities. No one asked specifics about Alex and Walker’s last three days. Everyone agreed that they were ready to head home.

It was decided that Trivette was not up to the drive back to Dallas, so Trent suggested that he and Carlos drive back while the other three flew. Carlos and Trent left fairly soon after everyone had agreed to the plan.

Alex checked in one last time with the local DA to make sure that they had all of her information so that they could contact her when it was time to return to testify in the Trammel case. The venue was being changed to Salt Lake to ensure that they got a fair trial, as the small town of Park City was ready to hang them without benefit of trial. Their much beloved Sheriff Chandler was going to be missed. The change in venue would make it easier for Alex to commute to and fro.

A van took the three to the airport. All of their luggage had gone back with Trent and Carlos except for a small overnight bag that Alex carried. Walker wanted his hands free to help steady Trivette. Trivette was able to walk, but sudden movements were painful. When they boarded the plane, Trivette was surprised to be shown to a first class seat. His seat was in the middle with Alex and Walker in the two seats on one side of the aisle and a wealthy cattle rancher and his wife in the two seats on the other side of the aisle.

“How do we rate first class?” Jimmy asked Walker. “We pay for it,” Walker said with a wry grin. “Great, this is going to be an expensive vacation.” “Don’t worry, I got it,” Walker said. He had called for the reservations and put them on his credit card. His friends liked to tease him about being cheap, but he had deep pockets when it counted. Trivette knew better than to argue with him, so he just thanked him.

Life returned to normal for the gang and it was nearly two months later that Alex was called to testify in the Trammel trial. She and Walker flew back to Utah and she faced her nemesis, who were in shackles and looked cleaner and well groomed, if just as rotten on the inside. She gave her testimony in only one day, cross examination being thwarted by her ability to anticipate the tactics used and to answer in such a way that her case was not weakened at all. It was futile anyway, the body of the third woman had been found near the cabin along with a stillborn fetus that Vanessa had admitted to giving birth to. Sally, it turned out, was incapable of bearing children due to an infection she had acquired from the brothers that had left too much scarring. 

Alex was glad to see the two women again, but knew that their ordeal was far from over. They were both in therapy and after the trial was over, planned to put the two years of hell behind them and pick up the pieces of their lives. Alex admired their strength and their optimism, but knew that they had a long difficult road ahead of them and that the possibility of them ever leading normal lives was slim.

That night in the hotel room, Walker held her close and listened to her fears and concerns for the two women. She had a nightmare that night, dreaming that she had given birth to a deformed baby with horns that was the child of the Trammel brothers. The baby was born alive, but she smothered it to put it out of its misery. The guilt that she felt afterward consumed her and put her into a deep depression. She awoke the next morning so morose, that Walker was truly worried. They had planned to fly back to Dallas as soon as her part of the trial was over. After seeing what had happened to her, Walker decided that they needed to stay to see it through. He felt that Alex needed closure.

Three days later, all three Trammels were sentenced to life in prison, without the possibility of parole. Vanessa and Sally asked Walker and Alex to join them and their families in a celebratory dinner at a local restaurant. The mood was up, but Alex remained morose, not able to shake the horrible nightmare she had dreamt her first night there. Vanessa laid her hand on Alex’s arm and said, “Alex, I just wanted to thank you.” Alex looked at her puzzled. “Thank me? For what?” “For giving us back our future,” she said, looking at Sally. “But, I didn’t do that. I was as much a victim as you and Sally. It was Walker and Trent who rescued us.” “Maybe, but I was so lost when you came, that I was thinking of taking my own life. I had birthed that baby and even though I wanted to hate her, I couldn’t. She was an innocent child. The umbilical cord was wrapped around her throat though and Sally couldn’t save her. We buried her, but every glimmer of hope I had was buried with that baby. Dwight never let me name her, but I always called her Hope when I thought of her.”

Alex listened to her tragic story, but couldn’t figure how she played a role in giving her back her future, other than the obvious of being kidnapped herself and rescued along with Vanessa and Sally. “When you decided to climb through that window, I didn’t want you to, because I knew what they would do to you. I couldn’t care enough though to speak up and stop you. Then, after Walker and Trent came and tied them up to the tree and you took back your engagement ring from Dwight, I felt like you were taking back what they had stolen from all of us. I can’t explain it Alex, but when you slipped that ring back onto your finger, I decided then and there that no matter how difficult it was to get my life back, I was going to try.”

Alex sat next to Vanessa and let the tears stream down her face. “You loved the baby? She wasn’t born a monster?” Alex asked, embarrassed at the question, but Vanessa didn’t flinch. “No, she was a perfectly formed baby girl. She was as innocent as any child born into the world. It wasn’t her fault that her father was a monster. She certainly didn’t inherit that trait.” Alex nodded and hugged Vanessa, thanking her for sharing the story. Her words had cleared away not only the nightmare, but the sadness that had weighed her down ever since she’d had it. In her heart, she knew that a child could not be held responsible for it’s father’s sins and knowing that Vanessa, who had endured a particularly cruel hell, felt love for her child, born under the worst of circumstances, made her release the dreadful nightmare she’d had.

That night, Alex shared her nightmare with Walker. “No wonder you’ve been so sad,” he told her. “Yes, I guess it was triggered by the knowledge that Vanessa had had a baby and how awful it must have been to know who the father was. I guess I just felt that I would want to get rid of it and that made me feel guilty; quite the moral dilemma.” “Let it go, Alex. If you were ever in that circumstance, I know that your decision would be different from the decision your dream self made. You love life, your own and the lives of everyone around you.” “Well, I know that I love you.” “You better,” he joked. She smiled at him and said, “Oh, I do, Cowboy, come closer and I’ll tell you how much.”

Walker scooted over closer to her in the bed and she bent to his ear and began to blow into it, licking the curves and nipping his fleshy earlobe. “What? I didn’t hear you,” Walker teased. She reached down beneath the covers and encircled his hardening flesh. “Did you hear that?” she asked. “Yes, I think I can hear you now, but speak up!” he encouraged her. Alex giggled, but dipped her head under the covers to make sure that he got the message loud and clear. He did.