Shoot to Kill

By Lelani

            Alex laughed and looked up at Walker. He was smiling back at her and her heart did a flip-flop right there in her chest. He was at his most charming and she simply could not resist his cowboy charm. She wanted to knock some sense into the man. The few times they’d been lovers had merely cemented the fact that they were indeed meant for each other, but he was back in full retreat mode and she was left frustrated and longing. He’d invited her to lunch, which in itself was something to celebrate, but even with his warm smile and direct eye contact, she knew that he was holding himself aloof. She couldn’t figure the man out and every time she vowed to give up trying, he’d do something like he had today, ask her out to an intimate lunch, and get her all hot and bothered again.

Walker looked at Alex and felt his chest tighten, along with his jeans. She was an amazingly beautiful lady and when she looked at him like that… he had a hard time convincing himself that they worked together and should keep their relationship in slow motion, if not on pause. He’d let her under his armor a few times and with each taste, he was having a tougher and tougher time keeping her at arm’s length. He sat staring into her impossibly blue eyes and cursed himself for asking her out to lunch. He just couldn’t resist though. She couldn’t be more addicting if she was a drug. She took a sip of her ice tea and he nearly climbed right out of his skin watching her pink tongue lick the excess fluid from her lower lip. He remembered how that tongue felt on his heated skin and his stomach tightened into a knot.

“You’ve stopped eating, isn’t the food good?” Alex asked. They were at the Café Marina and the food was always excellent. They’d each ordered seafood and salad. It was such a hot day outside that neither of them even wanted to contemplate a bowl of C.D.’s chili. They often ate together, but it didn’t really count as a date unless they went somewhere besides C.D.’s. As far as Alex was concerned, this lunch constituted a date.

“It’s good; I’m just not that hungry. I spent the entire morning in the field and it was so hot that I must have lost my appetite.” Walker took another gulp of his ice tea. He was on his third glass and he hoped that he was in the vicinity of a restroom when it hit him later in the day.

Alex glanced at her watch and said with regret, “We’d better head back. I took an extra long lunch break today, but I don’t want to stretch it out too long.”

Walker nodded in agreement and waved to the waitress to bring them the check. He didn’t want to come back from lunch so late that it would cause tongues to wag. He knew that Alex did, for once, have the time to take such a long lunch.  She had just finished prosecuting a huge case in which a man raped and murdered a ten-year-old girl. She’d managed to not only get the man convicted the man of the crime, but he was sentenced to death. There were times when Alex wavered in her belief in the death penalty, but this case hadn’t been one of them. After seeing the evidence photos, he didn’t blame her for her conviction. Not that he would anyway, he found himself a proponent for the death penalty more often than not. Like most cops who saw the degradation humans were capable of on a daily basis, he had no trouble justifying his beliefs.

After paying the bill, they headed out to Walker’s Ram. Alex’s hand slipped naturally into his and he gave it a little squeeze as they walked along the boardwalk to the parking structure. It felt natural to hold her hand like this. It fit into his like it was made to be there and the minimal contact caused all of his senses to heighten. He could smell her cologne, hear the happiness in her voice, feel the warmth of her hand, see the glow of her skin and he so wanted to taste her, but he restrained himself.

When they reached the Ram, Walker unlocked Alex’s door and held it open for her. He handed her the seatbelt and then looked into her eyes. For a moment, she thought that he was going to lean in and kiss her, but he didn’t. Instead, he smiled into her eyes and winked at her. She loved that wink. It was something he reserved just for her and she wasn’t sure just what it meant, but it was wonderful all the same.

They rode in silence back to the Justice Building, but it was an easy companionable silence, each lost in their own thoughts. Walker’s radio made Alex jump as the dispatcher’s voice called for all units in the vicinity of Santa Fe and Lexington to respond to a report of ‘shots fired’. Alex looked up and realized that they were on Santa Fe, approaching Lexington. “You have to respond,” Alex said.

Walker looked over at her and considered. “I don’t want you in the line of fire.”

“I’ll stay in the Ram and duck down if need be.”

Walker looked at her and nodded, his sense of duty warring with his sense of protectiveness. He swerved into the left lane as he flipped on his sirens and raced to the scene. Alex answered the dispatcher’s call, telling her that Ranger Walker was within blocks of the scene.

When they arrived, mayhem was in full force. Two rival gangs were on either side of Lexington having a shootout. “Get down, Alex!” Walker ordered as he drove straight down the middle of the street through the gunfire and swerved his truck so that it blocked the north side of the street and would serve to protect innocent bystanders who were caught out in the open. Once he had placed his truck in between the bystanders and the shooters, he opened his door and rolled out, his gun drawn. “Texas Ranger, drop your weapons,” he ordered in a loud booming voice.

The only response was the gunfire that both sides now aimed in his direction. Taking aim, he managed to hit one shooter on each side of the street. He was perpendicular to them, so he made a third side to the shootout.

Alex was lying in the floor of the Ram and reached up to pull down the microphone. “Dispatch, we have a full blown gun battle here with many casualties. Send the SWAT team and have ambulances standing by.”

Who’s speaking please?” the dispatcher requested. She wasn’t about to call out the SWAT team on just anyone’s say so.

“This is Assistant District Attorney Alex Cahill. Ranger Walker has engaged as many as twenty suspects in gunfire. We need back up, NOW!”

“I have units arriving within two minutes,” the dispatcher promised.

“Tell them that there are innocent bystanders pinned down in the crossfire and that Ranger Walker is north of the shooting on Lexington.”

“Roger that. All units responding to ‘shots fired’ at Santa Fe and Lexington…”

“Alex, I need more ammo,” Walker told her curtly.

She reached into the glove compartment and pulled out a box of shells, cracking the driver’s side door, she tossed them to him. She shrieked when the motion brought gunfire aimed at the truck and the driver’s side window shattered, glass raining down on her head.

Walker was lying on the ground under the truck, his body pressed behind the wheel well for cover. He was outgunned, his handgun not making a dent against the automatic rifles the other shooters were using. Where the hell was backup? “Alex, I need the rifle!” he shouted above the sound of bullets spraying the side of his beloved truck. He heard a sharp-pitched cry from behind him and knew that there was another bystander casualty.

“Okay, Walker!” Alex answered. She reached under the seat to unclip the high-powered rifle that Walker kept there. Pulling it out, she checked to make sure it was loaded. She crawled up onto the driver’s seat and peered out of the window. Gasping in horror, she saw that a gang member had inched his way around to the end of Walker’s truck and was aiming at Walker. She could see him in the review mirror on the driver’s side. Without thought, she cocked the gun, aimed and fired. The kick of the gun slammed against her shoulder, pushing her back against the steering wheel, causing the horn to honk and Walker to swear. The next thing she saw was a body slump down onto the ground with blood pooling underneath.

She had to duck again as the windshield was hit when another shooter tried to retaliate against her. The windshield was peppered with bullets until it finally shattered. She lay crouched down on the seat, waiting for the rain of bullets to stop. Finally, she managed to pull out a box of shells from under the seat and reload and then she again cracked the driver’s side door and dropped the rifle down to Walker with the box of shells.

Now with more firepower, Walker was able to hold off the shooters until the SWAT team arrived and position themselves strategically around the shooters, wounding them so that they were forced to surrender. It was nearly half an hour after Walker and Alex arrived at the scene that all of the shooters were apprehended.

Alex hopped out of the Ram on the passenger’s side and put a pressure compress onto a wounded woman. She had been shot in the leg, but she was in the latter stages of pregnancy and she had begun premature labor. Alex stayed with the woman until the paramedics loaded her into the ambulance and drove away. She then went looking for Walker.

Walker was talking to the commander of the SWAT team. The gang members from the two rival gangs were all handcuffed, on gurneys, or dead. They were walking through the scene, recreating what had happened when Alex walked up behind them. They had just reached the fallen shooter that Alex had taken out.

“Who took out this punk?” Commander Matthews asked.

“I don’t know, I didn’t see him go down,” Walker answered.

“I shot him,” Alex said as she stepped up behind them.

“You shot him?” Walker questioned.

“Yes, just before I handed you the rifle. I had to sit up a little to check to see if it was loaded and I saw him in the review mirror, he had you lined up in his sights, so I shot him. That’s when I accidentally honked the horn.”

Commander Matthews looked from where Walker had said he had been lying under the truck to where the shooter lay. “You’re one damned lucky man, Walker. If this lady wasn’t such a good aim, you’d be in one of those body bags,” he nodded his head over to the M.E. who was going from one body to the next, taking down crime scene data and laying out body bags.

Alex walked up to the body of the fallen shooter and looked into his face and then gasped. “Oh my god, he’s just a boy,” she said.

Walker stepped up behind her and reached his hands out to grasp her upper arms and pull her back against him for support. He saw the boy’s face and placed him somewhere in the fourteen to fifteen year age range. “You had no choice, he was going to fire his weapon and you responded.” He felt Alex begin to shake and he guided her over to the Ram and opened the passenger side door to set her inside.

Suddenly, she fought against his hold and ran over to a trashcan that was sitting on the curb and proceeded to lose her lunch into it. “Oh god,” she moaned and she heaved again and again into the trashcan, her whole body revolting against what she’d just done.

Walker went to a paramedic and asked for some ice water and a towel. He then returned to Alex and walked her back over to the Ram and made her sit down on the running board while he poured some ice water onto a cloth and held it to her brow and then the nape of her neck. He handed her the cup of ice water and told her to sip it.

Alex was as white as a sheet, but she wasn’t harmed other than a few cuts from flying glass and he had to get back to work. Trivette arrived in his car and helped to contain the scene. An hour later, they had reached the point where Walker’s presence was no longer necessary. He called a wrecker to pick up his Ram and tow it in for repair. He couldn’t drive it without a windshield.

Trivette gave Walker and Alex a lift back to the Justice Building. As they walked into the building, a cheer rose up and everyone began to clap. They finally reached the DA’s offices and Alex quickly disappeared into her office washroom. The last thing she wanted was to be applauded for killing a young boy.

The rest of the day was spent giving statements and typing reports. Both Walker and Alex were key witnesses to the shootout and their testimony in court would be vital to the DA’s case. Alex, of course, would not be prosecuting the case, since she was involved in it.

At 5:00 p.m., Walker found Alex in her office. She appeared calm and composed on the outside, but he knew that inside, she was a jumble of emotions. “How about we stop by C.D.’s and have a beer? I think we both deserve one tonight.”

Alex didn’t want to socialize and to rehash the events yet again, but she also dreaded being home alone to play them over and over in her mind. She nodded at Walker with an attempt at a smile.

He grabbed her hand and pulled her along. “We’ll have to take your car; my truck won’t be ready for a few days. They said that in addition to replacing the windshield, there’s quite a bit of body work that needs to be done.”

Alex didn’t say anything, but she’d seen the bullet holes. It was lucky that Walker’s car was reinforced to withstand bullets. The bullet holes didn’t penetrate all the way through, but instead, were dents that were sprayed up and down the driver’s side. The only vulnerable parts of the vehicle were the windows.

They arrived at C.D.’s at 5:30 and he set out two long necks in front of them without even waiting for them to give their order. “Honey, I’m mighty proud of you. After all the years I’ve spent tryin’ to keep Cordell here from gettin’ himself killed, I’d hate for it to happen when I wasn’t on duty.”

“She’s great backup,” Walker agreed as he put his arm around her shoulders and gave her a squeeze.

Alex managed a ghost of a smile, but her mind kept focusing on the image of a young boy lying in a pool of his own blood.

Walker gave C.D. a rundown of the afternoon’s events, downplaying the gore as much as possible for Alex’s sake. As they talked, the television that hung over the bar aired the night’s ‘Top Story on the 6:00 News’.

“A gang shootout occurred on the streets of Dallas today. Police say that the final tally of deaths stands at five with eight more wounded. Eight additional gang members were taken into custody. One of the dead was a local businessman, Juan Pablo Ortiz, who was caught in the crossfire. There were also two bystanders who were wounded. Mirella Lopez was shot in the leg. She was transported to Mercy hospital where she gave birth to a healthy baby boy. Mirella is out of surgery at this hour having had the bullet removed and is listed in fair condition. The other bystander wounded was ten year old, Taieesha Jones. The little girl was shot in the chest and is still in surgery. Doctors say that she is in critical condition.”

Walker looked over at Alex and debated asking C.D. to turn the television off, but then he realized that he couldn’t protect her from what had already occurred. He cursed himself for taking her to the crime scene to begin with, but if he hadn’t responded immediately, the death count might just be that much higher. Not to mention the fact that she’d saved his life.

“The shootout was a turf dispute between the Santa Fe Satans and the Lexington Lobos. The rival gangs have fought over territory before and the battles have been bloody, but this was the bloodiest of all. Race is the basis for the battle, one gang being Black and the other Hispanic. The ongoing rivalry centers around the two leaders; Oscar ‘the Blade’ Garcia and Marvin ‘Scarface’ Young. Pedro Garcia, the younger brother of gang leader Oscar Garcia, was shot and killed by ADA Alex Cahill. He was fifteen years old and had followed in his brother’s footsteps. When he was shot by ADA Alex Cahill, he was aiming a semi-automatic rifle at Ranger Cordell Walker, the first to respond to the scene. Ms. Cahill was with the Ranger returning to work when the call came in. The D.A.’s office would not comment on her involvement in the shooting pending further investigation. In other news…”

C.D. picked up the remote control and lowered the volume on the television. He turned to Alex to congratulate her once again, but she was heading out towards the ladies’ room. He looked over at Walker, “You owe that little lady your life. If she hadn’t shot that little weasel…”

“That little weasel was fifteen years old. He wasn’t even shaving yet. When she saw his face and realized how young he was… well, it tore her up.”

“I thought something wasn’t right. So, this was the first time she killed someone I take it.”

“Hell C.D., you know Alex. She talks tough, but she even feels guilty when we go fishing. How many times has she tried to convince you that a perfectly good trout is too small and should be thrown back?”

C.D. nodded his head in agreement and looked pensive. “Well, how are we going to cheer her up?”

“I don’t know, but I do know that she doesn’t feel like celebrating.”

“No, I guess not. I’ll be more careful about what I say.”

“That’ll be a first,” Walker mumbled under his breath.

“I heard that,” C.D. said as he went to the other end of the bar to get drinks for a couple of Dallas police officers who had come in after their shift ended.

Alex returned to the bar, but kept her head down with her hair swinging in front of her face. Walker didn’t have to be psychic to know that she’d been crying. He was about to suggest that they head out when the two cops at the end of the bar saw who was sitting next to him.

“C.D.!” one of the young officers called in a loud voice so that all could hear. “A toast; to ADA Cahill for some damn fine shootin’!”

“Here, here,” his partner seconded.

All of the bar patrons lifted their glasses in a toast, “To Alex!”

One cowboy added in an exaggerated drawl, “He needed shootin’,” the classic Texas defense.

Alex sat next to Walker like a deer in headlights. Walker took one look at her face and said, “Music, C.D.!” Without missing a beat, he swooped her off of her stool and onto the dance floor. C.D. played a lively two-step and Walker pulled her into the dance step so fast that she didn’t have time to protest. She danced with him on autopilot until after the second song; C.D. changed the tempo to something slow and romantic. Walker pulled her in close and hugged her tight. “I’m sorry about this,” he whispered in her ear. “I’ll take you home as soon as I can get you out of here without a fuss.”

Alex sighed gratefully and snuggled into his broad chest, giving herself over to the comfort to be found there. True to his word, Walker danced with her for another ten minutes, while C.D. kept the music slow and then he danced her out the door.

They bumped into Trivette on their way out. “You guys leaving already?” he asked them with raised eyebrows.

“It’s been a long day,” Walker answered tersely. Jimmy was no fool and merely told them goodnight. He knew that tone in Walker’s voice and when he was being protective of Alex, you didn’t mess with the man.

Walker drove Alex’s car to her apartment building, but he spotted the TV van outside and kept on going. “Walker, what are you doing?” she asked.

“There was a news crew waiting to ambush you when you went home. How do you feel about staying out at the ranch tonight?”

Truthfully, it sounded like heaven. The last thing she wanted to do was to go home to an empty apartment. She felt that she should put up some sort of protest though, “I don’t have any clothes to wear.”

“You can borrow one of my shirts to sleep in and I’ll bring you home bright and early in the morning so that you can get ready for work.”

“What if they’re there in the morning?”

“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Regardless, I have a feeling that you’ll be more able to hold your own against them after a good night’s sleep.”

“You’re probably right.” She was silent for a few minutes and then she said, “Thank you.”

Walker looked puzzled, “For what?”

“Understanding, and for just being there,” she said with a shrug.

Walker reached his hand out to cover hers. “I’m the one who should be thanking you. You really had my back today.”

“I acted on pure instinct. I saw the threat and I reacted. I would never have shot that boy if I’d had a choice.”

“I know, but just remember that he was the one who took the choice away from you, not the other way around.”

Alex sat in silence, contemplating what he’d said until they reached the ranch house.

Walker helped Alex out of the car and was generally much more solicitous than he usually was. As they walked up the stairs of the front porch, he held his hand pressed against the small of her back.

Alex halted as he opened the door and was reluctant to go on in. “Do you mind if I just sit here on the porch for a bit?”

“Of course not, I’ll get you a drink. What would you like?”

“Something cold, I don’t care,” she answered as she settled herself on the swing.

Walker went on in and poured two tall glasses of lemonade. He added ice and brought the glasses out to the porch. “Do you mind company?” he asked.

Alex looked up and shook her head ‘no.’ He held the glass out to her and she accepted it, taking a long draw from it. They sat in silence, with Walker gently moving the swing with his foot. “I wish it hadn’t happened, but I’d do it again,” Alex said suddenly.

“I wish I hadn’t taken you with me. I should have let you out on a corner somewhere.”

“No, you needed my help. It should have been Trivette with you, but he wasn’t there and I was. I know that you like to do things yourself, but this was one time when you needed someone covering your back.”

“I’d like to argue with you, but I can’t. Alex, I remember my first kill. It was in Vietnam and it was a child who’d been booby-trapped with a bomb. He was running into camp and I shot him. He couldn’t have been more than nine, but he was going to blow up my buddies. I had to stop him. Didn’t make me feel any better about it though.”

“I’m sorry. You’ve been through so much. I wish I had your strength.”

“No you don’t. Don’t mistake strength for resignation. This is what life has dealt me and I’m resigned to that. I have to be if I want to keep on going.”

“You’re thinking of Uncle Ray aren’t you?”

“Yes, I guess I am. I’m not usually this morbid. I miss him so much. He was the one person I could go to and tell anything and know for certain that no matter what I said, he would accept me without passing judgment.”

“The ranch must seem so quiet without him.”

“It does. When he was alive, but staying at the reservation, I didn’t notice it.”

“He was always larger than life. I guess we all felt his presence, even when he wasn’t around.”

“Are we talking about this for a reason?” Walker asked.

“I guess to avoid talking about the thing I’m trying so desperately to forget. I killed someone today.”

Even after all the years of friendship, Walker could still be surprised by her brutal honesty. It was one of the things he loved about her. He stopped himself; he wasn’t going to go down that path again. They were friends and colleagues and he needed to remember that. “You finished your lemonade. Do you want more or are you ready to head in?”

In answer, Alex stood up and headed for the door. He led her into the downstairs guest bedroom and showed her where everything she would need was kept. While she showered, he ran upstairs and found one of his well-worn button up denim shirts. He knew that it had been washed so many times that it was the softest thing in his wardrobe. He left it hanging on the doorknob of the guest bath and then locked the house up and headed on upstairs to bed.

Alex tossed and turned and slept very little that night. Each time she would finally drift off to sleep, the image of that boy’s face with his blood pooled beneath his still body, would invade her dreams and she woke time and again in a cold sweat.

About an hour before dawn, Alex decided to stop fighting the inevitable and she got up quietly and flipped on the coffeemaker. She waited for it to brew and then filled a cup and went out to sit on the front porch. She was clad only in Walker’s button up shirt and her panties, but it was midsummer and despite the hour, the air was like a warm blanket. Alex sat on the swing and watched the sun begin to lighten the sky while she sipped her coffee. She laid her head back to rest her eyes and finally fell into a peaceful sleep.

Walker awoke just as the sky began to lighten. He knew that they needed to get an early start this morning if he was going to get Alex home so that she could shower and change before going into work. He got up and slipped quietly down the stairs pausing at the door to the guestroom to crack it slightly and peer in to check on Alex. She wasn’t there and he began to grow concerned until he discerned the smell of fresh brewed coffee and realized that she had already gotten up.

The house was dark, but he checked the living room, thinking that maybe she had gone to sit in there. When he didn’t find her, he opened the front door and stepped out on the porch and found her on the swing, her coffee cup resting against her belly and her head tilted back in sleep. He walked forward carefully and removed the cup to a safe place and then stood gazing at her. In sleep, she was beautiful, but in wakefulness, she was even more breathtaking as her spirit shown through her eyes. Still, when she was asleep, he could gaze at her without fear that she would catch him staring. Her high forehead, prominent cheekbones, long nose and thinly sculpted lips, all formed together to create a face any man would love. The fact that it was framed with soft golden locks and sat atop a long sinewy neck only made her face more beautiful. He allowed his gaze to lower to the V of the shirt and down to her lush breasts that were molded by the soft denim. The shirt was long on her and covered to the top of her golden thighs. Then of course, there were her legs, the part of her that had tongues wagging from the first day she’d walked into the Justice Building. They tapered down to her feet that were bare in the warm morning air.

Walker gulped and then whirled around to head out to the barn. He did his chores with an intensity that was born of pent up passion. Having tasted the apple of temptation, he found it even harder to resist taking another bite. Damn that whitewater rafting trip! How was he supposed to resist her when he knew how it felt to be held in her arms against her silken skin and to be buried into the tight warmth of her body? Walker’s body insisted on reacting to the images his mind conjured up and tortured him with. How many nights had he lain in his bed dreaming of sinking into her and tasting the forbidden fruit yet again? Damn!

When Walker returned to the ranch house, he found that Alex was still asleep. She was dreaming though, he could tell. And from the sounds she made, the dreams weren’t pleasant. “Alex?” he called. “Alex, wake up.”

Alex’s eyes flew open and her mouth gaped to bring in air. Her pupils were dilated as she looked up into his eyes, fighting to clear the nightmare vision from her mind’s eye. “Walker,” she whispered.

“Bad dream?” he asked.

“Yeah,” she agreed. She looked around and realized that she was sitting on his front porch. Her next thought was that she wasn’t wearing much at all. “I just came out here to drink my coffee, I guess I fell asleep.”

“From the looks of you, you needed it.” As the words left his lips, he knew that it was the wrong thing to say. “I just meant that it looks like you had a hard night.” He was digging the hole deeper. He decided to shut up.

“I didn’t sleep well. Every time I close my eyes, I see that boy’s face.”

Walker held out his hand to pull her up from the swing. She reached out to clasp his hand and the V in the shirt shifted showing a large bruise just below her clavicle. He pulled her up and then used his fingers to shift the shirt to the side. “What’s this?” he asked, concerned.

Alex looked down to where his large male fingers lightly grazed her chest. Her stomach tightened and she had to take a deep breath in to answer him. “I think it’s from the kick in that rifle you keep in your truck.”

Walker nodded, the rifle did have quite a kick and he’d had some bruises from it himself. They never looked like hers though. Her skin was so unblemished and soft that the purple colored bruise stood out against it. Without thought, he leaned forward and pressed his warm lips to the damaged area.

This time, Alex gasped at the contact. For months now, she’d dreamt of his touch and now that he was actually touching her, every cell in her body came vibrantly to life. She thought that she could feel her own pores on her skin, her senses were so heightened. “Walker,” she whispered as his head lifted back from her.

He knew as soon as he touched his lips to her flesh that he’d made a tactical error. His lips burned as if on fire, yet her skin had felt so cool and refreshing. He lifted his head and stared at her parted lips and it took every ounce of willpower to step back and away from her. “You’d better get dressed.  I’ll meet you in ten minutes and take you to your apartment so you can get ready for work.”

Alex stared at him as if in a trance while he turned and nearly ran from her to shower and dress. Alex headed in more slowly and pulled on the clothes she’d worn the day before. There were bloodstains on the front of the suit jacket from when she’d helped the pregnant woman who’d been shot. She left the jacket off and just wore the skirt and blouse. She rolled her nylons up in the jacket and slipped her bare feet into her shoes. She was ready when Walker came back downstairs to drive her to her apartment.

Their trip into town was accomplished in silence, but the air between them was charged. When they reached her apartment complex, he circled to make sure that the TV vans were not in hiding. Then, he parked and they headed up to her apartment. “Help yourself to some breakfast,” she offered as she ducked back into her room to shower and dress.

He had blueberry pancakes and bacon waiting with orange juice when she emerged looking as much like the prosecuting DA as ever. Her eyebrows lifted in surprise at the culinary skills he displayed, but she didn’t say anything and sat down to eat.

They were mobbed on the steps of the Justice Building by reporters who were chomping at the bit. They had been denied access to the one person they most wanted to interview for nearly twenty four hours and they shoved microphones into Alex’s face with ruthless glee.

“How does it feel to shoot a fifteen year old boy?” one insensitive reporter asked.

“I responded to a threat to an officer’s life. There were bullets flying everywhere and it was dumb luck that I wasn’t hit. I only fired one shot and it was specifically at someone with a gun pointed at Ranger Walker’s back. I didn’t ask him his name or his age when I shot the gun.” Alex answered the rude question and pushed forward through the crowd with Walker delivering some well-placed elbow jabs to help clear a path.

“And just what were you doing with Ranger Walker in the first place?” one reporter asked on a sneer.

Alex ignored the question and continued on up the steps.

“It’s been reported that you were returning from an extended lunch break with the Ranger,” the same reporter sneered.

Walker took a step backwards and landed with the heel of his cowboy boot right in the man’s instep. He pushed through the reporters with a renewed determination until they were inside the doors of the building.

Alex headed straight to her office without her usual pit stop at Ranger Headquarters to greet her many friends there and wish them a good day. It was a blessing to be able to close her door on the world and closet herself in amongst her books and briefs.

At nine, her secretary buzzed her and told her that the DA wanted her to report to his office. Alex brushed her hair out and applied a fresh coat of lipstick before making her way to the DA’s office. She knocked on the door and opened it at the terse “Enter.”

“You wanted to see me?” she asked.

“Yes, Alex, how are you?”

Alex shrugged, “I shot a boy. I guess I’m as well as can be expected.”

“Yes, nasty business that. Of course, we need to make sure that the media spin is in our favor on this one.”

“Our favor?” Alex asked with distaste.

“Don’t be naive, Cahill. You’re playing with the big boys now. You shot a fifteen-year-old boy. The media can crucify you if they choose to. I’ve booked you on ‘One on One with Martin Lester’ tonight. I want you at the studios by four today.”

“And just what am I supposed to do?”

“Answer the man’s questions. He’ll grill you like a fish, but you’re a prosecuting attorney for god’s sake. Surely you can hold your own with an investigative reporter.”

“As long as it’s live and they don’t edit what I say,” she answered.

“That’s why I chose this forum for you to make your statements. I don’t want the mass media getting some spliced together sound bite. This is your chance to tell your side of the story the way you want it heard.”

“Doesn’t this taint the case?”

“How? You’re an eyewitness who’s telling your account to the news media. It happens everyday.”

“Yes, it does and that’s why we have so much trouble getting jurors for high profile cases. People have been tried and convicted before they ever reach the courtroom.”

“Alex, we either answer their questions or we watch them make up their own answers. This isn’t a request, it’s an order.”

Alex nodded, “I’ll be there.” She stood up and walked out, wishing she could tell what to do with his ‘order.’

Trivette and Walker were out on a call and she didn’t get to talk to either of them the rest of the day. She went home early to take yet another shower and to dress for the interview. She wore a softer looking suit than she usually wore for trials. She didn’t want to look too hard on television since she was, in essence, defending herself for murder. She wore her hair down and softly curled around her face and she used warm colors for her eye shadow, blusher and lipstick. When she was finished, she surveyed herself in the mirror and decided that she’d created the effect she was going for. She’d been in enough courtrooms to know how much image mattered.

Alex took a deep breath and then headed downstairs to her car to drive to the studios. When she reached her car, it had four slashed tires and had red spray paint that started at the passenger door and read, ‘Payback’ on the one side and ‘is a’ on the hood and finally, ‘bitch’ on the driver’s side. Of course, she only saw the word ‘bitch’ when she first approached her car, but saw the rest as she surveyed the entire car.

She pulled out her cell phone and called a cab and then she called Trivette. “Jimmy?” she said as he answered.

“Hey there counselor, you want to talk to Walker? He just stepped out, but he should be right back.”

“No, I don’t need to talk to Walker necessarily. I came out to get in my car and it’s been vandalized. I have to get to the studios to do this interview the DA’s making me do, but I thought I should report it.”

“Oh gosh, we’ll come right over.”

“No, it’s okay, I have a cab coming, but if you could send a team over to see if they can get prints or something. I guess both Walker and I will need to find alternate transportation for a few days.”

“That’s where Walker is right now. Listen, I’ll get a team over to go check out your car and then I’ll have it towed, does it need to be towed?”

“All four tires were slashed and they painted spray paint on it.”

“Does it say anything?”

“Payback is a bitch,” she read to him.

“That doesn’t sound good. Alex, maybe this is retaliation for yesterday.”

“Maybe, but Pedro’s brother, Oscar, was one of the gang members we arrested.”

“Alex, he’s the head of a gang, he’s got an army out there to carry out his orders. I’ll look into getting a court order to tape his phone calls while he’s in jail and to monitor his visitors.”

“Thanks Jimmy, listen, my cab just arrived, I gotta go.”

“Okay, don’t worry; we’ll take care of this.”

“Thanks, you’re a prince,” she said and then hung up the cell phone and gave the cab driver the address to where she was going.

When she arrived at the studio, she was later than expected and they didn’t have time to do her hair and makeup. Alex couldn’t have planned it better if she’d tried. The host of the show had given the makeup person instructions to make her look harder, but the soft look she’d arrived with was the one he was stuck with. He didn’t buy her story of car trouble, but he really didn’t have any recourse but to accept her apology and let the sound people and lighting people do their thing.

The format was that she sat in a chair facing the interviewer. The two chairs were placed on a podium and they used two separate cameras so that they could do close-ups of both of their faces. The show was a hard news interview format and Martin Lester had a reputation for grilling guests. Alex knew that she would be doing battle tonight and she was prepared.

“Tonight we are interviewing Alexandra Cahill the Tarrant County Assistant District Attorney who shot and killed a young boy yesterday during a police shootout. So Alex, how do you feel today, more than twenty four hours later, about taking a life?”

“Well, Martin, I stand by what I did, if that’s what you mean. I certainly wish there had been another option, but I was placed in a no win situation. I didn’t see the age of the person, I only saw the size of the gun and that it was pointed at Ranger Walker’s back. I reacted by firing the weapon I had in my hand.”

“And just why did you have a weapon in your hand?”

“Ranger Walker was driving me back to work when he got the call that there was a shootout and that innocent bystanders were trapped. He responded and I stayed down in the cab of his truck. He was outgunned though. The two gangs were shooting at each other, and anything else that moved, with semi-automatic weapons. He asked me to hand him his rifle and I had to sit up high enough in the seat so that I could check to make sure it was loaded. When I did, I saw a gun aimed at Walker and instinct took over, I aimed and shot.”

“So, you’ve handled weapons before?”

“On a target range, yes.”

“Do you hunt or collect weapons?”

“No.”

“But you own a gun.”

“I do.”

“So you believe that people have the right to bear arms?”

“I’m a Texan, isn’t that part of our genetic make-up?”

“It seems to me that someone in your position who sees what guns can do would take another view.”

“I don’t advocate owning a gun, but I have had threats made against me in the past and I took a gun safety course and learned how to safely handle a gun for self-protection if needed. I’ve never had to use it and I hope I never do.”

“If you could say something to the parents of Pedro Garcia, what would you say to them?”

“I don’t know how to answer that question. I would tell them that I was sorry for their loss. They lost two sons yesterday. Their older son, Oscar, the leader of the gang, was arrested. He faces life in prison if not the death penalty.”

“Let’s talk about the death penalty. Are you for capital punishment?”

“I am. In our society today, I believe that it’s a necessary evil, but I hope that the world I leave to my children won’t find it necessary.”

“Didn’t you just sentence a man to death in the last case you prosecuted?”

“No, the jury did. He was found guilty of raping and murdering a ten-year-old girl. In Texas, there has to be a ‘special circumstance’ charge along with the murder charge to make you eligible for the death penalty. The rape made it a capital case.”

So, in essence, this isn’t the first person you’ve ‘put to death.’”

“You missed your calling, Mr. Lester; you should have been a defense attorney. You’re very good at twisting answers to suit you and at asking questions in a way that gets you the answer you want.”

“You still didn’t answer my question.”

“I have prosecuted five capitol cases in the court system that have resulted in a sentence of death by lethal injection. This is the first time I have fired a weapon at someone and certainly the first time that I have directly caused the death of someone.”

“Any regrets?”

“Absolutely. I regret that a boy had to die. I regret that he put me in a position that made me have to shoot him to save an innocent life. I regret the entire incident, but if you’re asking me if I would do it again, the answer is yes. If I was faced with a situation that placed an innocent life in jeopardy and I had the means to save that life, I would do so.”

“But he was only fifteen.”

“Tell that to the gun he was holding. I don’t think it cared.”

“What were you doing with Ranger Walker at that time of day in the first place?”

“Returning from lunch.”

“Do you often dine with him?”

“When we get a chance, we’re both very busy people.”

“So, rumors that you are in fact lovers are true?”

“Ranger Walker is a friend and colleague. I have meals with other people from work as well, I don’t sleep with them.”

“But you do sleep with Ranger Walker?”

“I thought this was a news show. If I knew that it was a gossip show, I would have worn my red lipstick.”

“So, you’re not going to answer?”

“I will not discuss my personal life with you, no.”

“Ladies and gentlemen, we’ll be going to a commercial break. Stay with us and we’ll be taking your calls about yesterday’s shooting.”

It took all of Alex’s control to remain in her seat and not tell the man sitting across from her what she thought of him and his tactics. She was a professional though and she knew that he would try to goad her into revealing something that she didn’t want to reveal. She was glad that this was a live broadcast, because it meant that her answers to his questions would be viewed unedited. She asked for a glass of water and took some deep breaths before the phone-in part of the show began.

Most of the phone calls were from people who had lost children to gangs and were supportive of Alex and of what she had done. One caller even went so far as to scold Martin Lester for his line of questioning saying that the world needed more people like Alex Cahill and that he should treat the lady with respect. Alex came close to smiling when she saw the look of irritation cross Martin’s face.

The final caller said that he was a friend of Pedro’s and that she had no right to shoot him. “He was just a kid and he didn’t do nothin’ to you lady; payback’s a bitch!” he finished before hanging up. The words rang in Alex’s ears. She certainly recognized them.

After her ordeal was over, Alex headed out to the parking lot. She didn’t even want to stay long enough to call herself a cab. She decided that she would call from outside in the parking lot. She walked away from the building and pulled out her cell phone. A hand closed over her shoulder and she screamed and whirled to face her assailant, ready to do battle. It was Walker.

“I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to startle you.”

“Walker! What the hell were you thinking?”

“I could ask you the same thing. You shouldn’t be out here alone, especially since you’ve been receiving threats.”

Alex shrugged, “It hasn’t been anything major.”

“Then why are you so jumpy?”

Alex answered him with a glare.

“Come on, I have a rental car over here and I packed you a bag. You’re coming home with me tonight.”

“Oh good, that should make Martin Lester very happy.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Weren’t you listening to the radio broadcast of the show?”

“Oh, you mean his insinuations that we’re…”

“Right, I mean his insinuations.”

“Look, I don’t want you staying at your place tonight. We know that they know your car and where you live. If they didn’t know before, they now know what you look like and where you work.”

“So… what? You’re going to be my shadow?”

“If that’s what it takes to keep you safe. This time, I’ve got your back.”

Alex decided not to answer and just sat quietly during the ride back out to the ranch.

When they got there, Walker lifted a bag out of the back of the SUV he had rented while waiting for his truck to be repaired. Alex looked at it and recognized it as hers.

“I took the liberty of packing a few things for you. Since it’s Friday, I thought you could just stay here this weekend. I’ll take you to get some more things that you’ll need next week sometime tomorrow if you like.”

“What I’d like is to just stay at home.”

“We’ll talk about that later, when you’re not so tired and unreasonable.”

Alex gave him a look, but grabbed the bag from him and headed on in to unpack and change into shorts and t-shirt. The heat was still oppressive, although Walker turned the air on in the house to cool it down.

They grilled and ate outdoors while they waited for the house to cool. Walker challenged her to a game of chess and managed to beat her. “You’re not on your game tonight, you made it easy,” he scolded her.

“Sorry,” she said, not really meaning it. She had too much on her mind. She was sorry that the boy she shot had died and she was worried about the ramifications.

They watched a rebroadcast of Alex’s interview that was shown later that evening. She critiqued herself as she watched it and decided that she’d done a fairly good job of fielding the leading questions. She wished that her personal life hadn’t been brought into it, especially as it related to Walker, but there was nothing she could do about it. She didn’t even know how to define her relationship with Walker, how could she be expected to tell the viewing public what it was? Yes, they had been lovers, but no, they weren’t currently lovers. Yes, they were friends and every once in awhile, they were a little bit more than friends, but… Alex’s head was spinning and she excused herself and turned in early, hoping that she would actually be able to sleep unlike the night before.

Alex finally fell asleep about 1:00 a.m., but it was a restless sleep and plagued with nightmares. She woke up sitting up in bed, covered in sweat from a dream of her watching the boy shoot Walker. She left the bedroom and headed back out to the front porch to sit on the swing. Staring up at the stars, she was beginning to feel at home in this spot.

Early the next morning, Walker found her in the same place, curled up on the swing asleep. He knelt beside the swing and pushed her hair back from her face and noticed the shadows that were forming under her eyes from lack of sleep. He frowned and gently slid his hands under her body and lifted her up into his arms. After he carried her into the house, he laid her down on the bed and stood back up to look at her. Every inch of his skin was crying out to touch her, but he restrained himself and headed out to get started on the ranch chores.

Every stall had been mucked, a new gate installed, fencing repaired, grass mowed, hay stacked and feed bags opened and dumped into barrels, when Alex came in search of him close to noon. “You planning on doing every chore today?” she asked. She couldn’t be certain, but she suspected that he was avoiding her.

“It’s not often I get the time.”

“Well, the house is clean; the laundry’s done, floors are swept, mopped and vacuumed, bathrooms have been scrubbed, the kitchen’s gleaming, every knick-knack in sight dusted, and now I’m bored.”

Walker stopped and looked at her in awe. “You did all that? Why?”

Alex shrugged, “I didn’t think you wanted my company and I had to do something to stay busy.”

Walker frowned at her, “You’re supposed to be resting.”

“Tell that to my brain,” she answered.

“How about if we take a break and have some lunch?”

Alex agreed. They’d both skipped breakfast. They fixed sandwiches and ate watermelon to replenish the liquid in their bodies. After eating, it was far too hot to think of doing any chores until Walker decided they should wash the horses. He currently had fifteen horses at the ranch and they put them in the crossties and washed each and every one. It was a chore that took the entire afternoon and they were both completely wet and exhausted, not to mention slightly sunburned, when they finally finished.

Walker looked over at Alex and saw just how tired she really was. He hoped that the physical exertion would help her to sleep. “Let’s go shower and get out of these wet dirty clothes,” he suggested.

Alex looked down at herself and grimaced, “You sure know how to show a lady a good time,” she joked. He smiled back at her and grabbed her hand to tug her into the house. “Take off those boots! I worked hard on these floors!” she scolded him.

Looking as if he was a small boy caught with his hand in the cookie jar, Walker stopped at the front door and slipped off his boots and his wet socks. Then he pulled off his shirt and dumped it into the pile on the porch. “You’re turn,” he suggested with a wag of his eyebrows.

She squinted her eyes at him and stuck out her tongue, “You wish,” she answered.

“Yep,” he agreed with a nod of his head. He went on in and entered the downstairs bathroom to fetch her a towel. “Here,” he said as he handed it to her and then he turned and headed upstairs to his bathroom before he was tempted to stay and help.

Alex stripped down to her panties and bra and wrapped the towel around her sarong style. She picked up the wet muddy clothes and carried them into the washroom and dumped them all in the washing machine. She then went into the downstairs bathroom and showered and changed into a clean pair of shorts and t-shirt. She decided to forgo the bra, it was just too hot.

When she came out to the front room, Walker was stretched out in his reclining chair with the fan circulating the air and aimed right at him. “Hey, you have to share,” she challenged.

“My house, my fan,” he argued. He had turned on the air conditioner, but it would be awhile before the house cooled, as hot as it was.

Alex left Walker where he was and went into the kitchen to fix two tall glasses of ice water with a squeeze of lemon in each. She came back into the living room and set one next to him on the table. Then, with more daring than she usually showed, she took one of the ice cubes out of her glass and smoothed it over his bare chest. Walker had only put on a pair of cut off Levi shorts after his shower. A hand clamped down on her wrist and she shrieked. Walker slipped the ice from her fingers and slid it down into the front of her shirt. Alex’s eyes widened as she felt the cold ice cube slide down the front of her. Walker wasn’t watching her eyes though; his gaze was fixed on the twin peaks that rose in reaction against the t-shirt material. Alex saw the look of lust come into his eyes and retreated. This game they played could get dangerous.

To break the tension, Walker got up and said, “Hang on a minute.” He left her standing there while he went back into his office and pulled out a large bean bag chair. He placed it next to the recliner so that it was in the path of air the fan was blowing and then he resumed his spot in the recliner and offered her the place at his feet.

Alex didn’t miss the symbolism, but she didn’t comment. It was, after all, his house and he was doing her the favor. She’d sit at his feet this one time if it meant being able to share the fan.

Walker had a great view as Alex sat with her head level with his hand and her long legs stretched out before her. She leaned her head back and brought the glass to her forehead, enjoying the cool sensation against her heated skin. Walker was enjoying looking at her breasts and at her legs without her being able to see him. He reached his hand down and combed it through her drying hair. Alex gave in to the relaxing repetitive motion he used and soon drifted off to sleep.

With Alex asleep and the heat of the day sapping his energy, Walker too, drifted off. He awoke to hear a crying sound and found that the room was dark and Alex was sitting in the bean bag chair beside him in tears. He sat up and then stood up to bend down to comfort her. He realized that she was still asleep, so he scooped her up into his arms and then debated on where to go with her. The bedroom was simply too risky, so instead, he headed outside where it was dusk, but not yet dark.

Sitting down on the porch swing, Walker cradled Alex in his arms and let her cry into his shoulder. He watched the sun set over the rolling hills of pastureland as the cattle grazed their evening meal. “Alex, it’s all right, honey,” he reassured her in a gentle voice.

Alex suddenly awoke and was disoriented for a moment. “Where am I?” she asked.

Walker had to bite back a grin at the clichéd question, but he kissed her forehead and said, “You’re at the ranch.”

“I know, but wasn’t I inside?” There was no hint of tears in her voice, they had been a part of her dream and she wasn’t crying now that she was awake.

“Yes, but you were crying and so I brought you out here.”

“I was?” She sat up slightly and looked around her. The sun was sinking fast behind the hills. She saw the last flash of orange and then it was dark until she saw a flash of light.

“Lightening bugs!”

Walker chuckled at her childlike enthusiasm. It amazed him that she could awake from such a sad dream and have no memory of it. “There’s another,” he said.

“Where? Darn, I missed it. Oh, there’s one out by the fence and another one by the picnic table. That’s three to your one.”

“Ha, I’ve been watching them for fifteen minutes while you were asleep.”

“Doesn’t count. There’s another and another, that’s five... six!”

“Is this a contest?”

“Sure and I’m winning, I’m on eleven.”

“Well, I’m on twelve.”

“Uh, uh, you cheat.”

“I do not; I just have keener eyes than you do. I’m up to twenty two.”

“Walker, you lie like a rug. I’m on seventeen.”

“I should get us each a mayonnaise jar and challenge you to a contest to see who can catch the most.”

“Uh, uh, I only count them; I don’t catch them, twenty-three.”

“Thirty eight,” he countered.

“How do I know you’re not making it up?”

“You just have to trust me.”

“That’ll be the day. I’ve seen the way you rig all of your contests with poor Jimmy.”

“I don’t rig contests,” he denied.

“Yes, you do, I’ve seen you.”

“When?”

“Thirty-two,” she claimed.

“Alex!” he said in a stern threatening tone.

She happily ignored him, enjoying getting the better of him for once. “If I win, you have to cook dinner AND do the dishes,” she told him, “forty-six!”

Walker was lost, not sure how to combat this new tactic. She was still lying in his lap, her right breast pressed intimately into his bare chest and her long legs stretched out on the swing. His left arm cradled her back, but his right arm was free and he reached it down to her thigh to run his fingers up her leg to the bottom edge of her shorts.

Alex gasped at the blatant act, but decided to try and ignore it and see what he would do next. “Fifty-one!” she announced.

Walker inched his fingers up under the hem of her shorts and ran them back and forth inside the pant leg, making wider and wider arcs until he was dangerously close to touching her intimately.

Alex was biting her lip and her eyes were closed, but she was still certain she could see the flashes of light from the fireflies. “Sixty-four!” she managed in a strangled voice.

Walker responded by slipping his fingers out from under her shorts leg and under the bottom of her t-shirt. He was emboldened by her defiance in their silly contest and he was like a man possessed. He was determined to conquer this woman in whatever manner it required. His fingers edged up her midriff and tickled her abdomen. They brushed the underside of her right breast and it sprang to life of its own accord.

Alex’s head dropped back as she gave in to the sensations his questing fingers aroused. His fingers crept up higher on the mounded flesh and skimmed over the tight bud that ached for his touch. He reached up high enough to squeeze her nipple and then he held it up for his lips to take hold of through the t-shirt material. Alex moaned and her left hand rose up and sank into his hair as he nursed at her breast. She was certain that she was going to jump right out of her skin.

Walker was having his own trouble staying in his skin. The hard ridge that rose in his shorts was pressing itself up against her buttock and he was too far gone to call a halt to the passion that had taken over his body.

They both had their eyes closed when a pair of lightening bugs flashed before them. It was a moment or two before it penetrated Walker’s brain that the lights had been too bright to be lightening bugs, but it wasn’t until a car door slammed that it sunk in that what he’d seen were headlights. His head jerked up and he thrust Alex out of his lap so quickly that she nearly fell off of the swing.

“Howdy Cordell, Alex, what’re you two doin’ sittin’ out here in the dark?” C.D. asked as he approached the porch cautiously, careful not to trip.

“Countin’ fireflies C.D., I’m winning,” Alex managed.

Walker was impressed at her recovery time and didn’t have the heart to argue with her victory. “Need some help?” he asked as he realized that C.D. hadn’t come empty handed.

“You can grab this here dish, it’s heavy!” C.D. said.

Walker jumped up from the swing and grabbed the large dish from C.D.. He was glad to have something to put in front of him before he turned on any lights.

“I’ll get the lights,” Alex offered as she leapt off the swing to be the first one in. There was no way she could conceal the wet spot on her shirt and the fact that she wasn’t wearing a bra would be all too apparent. “Time for a potty break anyway. I win, Walker, you do the dishes,” she called back over her shoulder as she ducked into the guest bedroom to do some quick repair work.

Walker headed on into the kitchen and walked around the counter before setting the large dish down. He lifted off the foil, “Oh, wow, is this fried catfish and hushpuppies?” he asked.

“It will be as soon as I fry it,” C.D. answered with pride. His fried catfish was nearly as legendary as his chili. He set about getting out a large deep fryer and filling it with oil to fry the freshly caught and breaded catfish.

“Where’s the coleslaw?” Walker queried.

“Right here,” Jimmy hollered from the doorway as he came in.

“Trivette? I didn’t know you were even here,” Walker told him.

“That’s because Big Dog here, thought it would be fun to have me carry the coleslaw and tartar sauce. I’ve got it all over me, man,” he complained. He set his dishes down and continued to wipe at his shirt.

“I need to run up and get a shirt on before dinner anyway, I’ll grab you one too,” Walker said as he bounded out of the kitchen.

Alex arrived in time to see what Jimmy was doing, “Here, let me have it Jimmy, it’ll stain if it doesn’t get pretreated.” She waited for him to strip off his shirt and carried it out to the laundry room, grateful for the few extra minutes to compose herself. She had changed, put on a bra and a loose fitting blouse, but she was still in a state of arousal and there wasn’t a lot she could do about that. She pretreated Jimmy’s shirt and tossed it into the wash with her and Walker’s wet clothes from their afternoon activities and started the washer.

The foursome ate a hearty meal and laughed and joked and told stories. They all enjoyed each other’s company and the three men had made a silent pact to try and cheer Alex up. C.D. regaled them with just how he’d caught the very same catfish they were enjoying. His fish stories were always whoppers and he had them all crying with laughter by the time he had the fish in the boat. Jimmy noticed the dark patches under Alex’s eyes as did C.D. and they did everything but tap dance to keep her amused.

Aware that they were all trying to make her feel better, Alex played along. She had a heavy weight that rested square on her shoulders, but she knew that each of the men present would gladly bear that weight for her if they could.

Around eleven, C.D. and Jimmy got ready to go. Alex went to the laundry room to get Jimmy’s freshly laundered shirt. He pulled off the one he’d borrowed from Walker and tossed it to him as he pulled his own on. “Wow, great job, Alex, I think I’ll just start bringing my laundry to you.”

“Don’t even think about it,” she told him. “So, you guys aren’t even going to comment on my interview last night? Was I that bad?” Alex joked.

“Darlin’, you gave that reporter what for. I was only sorry I wasn’t there to dump a pot of chili on his head. That fool asked some really dumb questions.”

“You handled him like a pro, counselor.” Jimmy said with a hug.

Alex didn’t need their praise as much as she needed them to know that it was okay to talk about it. She didn’t want them tiptoeing around the subject for her sake. She hugged both men goodbye and then headed on in to see if there was anything left to do in the kitchen. As always, after C.D. had been by, the kitchen was spotless. She refilled hers and Walker’s glasses with ice tea and handed his to him when he returned from seeing the two men out.

Walker looked at her and saw just how exhausted she looked. “Alex, you should go on to bed, you’re out on your feet.”

She shook her head at him, “No, I won’t sleep anyway.”

He frowned at her and then said, “Maybe I can help.”

Alex couldn’t help it she blushed.

“That’s not what I meant,” he said, knowing where her mind had gone.

“I’m sorry, I just…” she stammered and came to a halt.

“Go to bed, Alex. I’ll come in later and see if I can help you get to sleep. Leave your shirt off and lay on your belly.”

Alex lifted her head and braved him, “Walker, I know that it’s… hard to have me here. I can go home, really.”

“No, I want you here, Alex. We just have to be careful about the situations we find ourselves in.”

She wanted to ask why, but just didn’t have the courage and so she turned and walked out to the guestroom. She got ready for bed and stretched out face down. She left the light on the nightstand turned on and waited with her face resting on her folded arms. She had her hair pulled up and clipped on top of her head. The sheet was all that covered her and it was down to about the middle of her back. Her face was turned away from the door and she didn’t hear him come in until he brushed against the sheet at the foot of the bed. She had to bite back a gasp; her body was a bundle of nerves and tight with anticipation.

Walker lifted the sheet and pulled it on down to her feet, not worrying about her modesty; he’d seen all of her before. That was his first mistake. He rubbed his hands together so that the oil wasn’t cold enough to shock her senses. He began at her shoulders and gently soothed the oil down her back. His hands ran up and down her spine, gently soothing out the tension he found there. A great deal of it was caused by his presence and his touch, but that he couldn’t help. His hands soothed her body and he talked to her, softly, telling her about his childhood days on the reservation. He told her of the foot races the boys competed in, the horse races, and the tracking contests. He spoke of hot summer days and sitting around a campfire with hundreds of years of culture being shared by the elders of the tribe with the young braves. He painted a tranquil scene that carried her mind to a safe place, somewhere that he often went when he needed to escape harsh reality.

Alex began to relax and his hands smoothed on down her body, down her legs and to her feet. He made her feel like Jell-O and she was having difficulty forming thoughts.

Walker felt her sigh and then her breathing evened out. He stood up slowly and looked down at her and had to force himself not to reach out and touch her yet again, he knew that if he did, he wouldn’t continue his massage, but would instead wake her up to make love to her. His arguments about not getting involved and not spoiling their friendship were moot. He wanted her! Then he remembered the devastating feeling of seeing her walk out of Dalton Reed’s trailer that brisk morning. He nearly died that day, a part of him had. He knew that it was his fault, that he had pulled away first, but he just couldn’t stand the jealousy, knowing that after sharing her body with him, she was willing to share it with another man. And Dalton Reed! Walker turned swiftly and raced upstairs to stand under an ice cold shower. Alex may sleep this night, but he was fairly certain that he wouldn’t.

Alex didn’t sleep well either. She slept soundly for about an hour and then she woke up from another dream. This time, Pedro Garcia got up and even though he was bleeding profusely, he was standing and accusing her of ending his life before he could make something of it. She was shaking and crying when she woke up and she once again headed out to the porch swing, her sanctuary.

She was lying there looking at the stars when a car turned and drove up the driveway. She didn’t recognize it, but the headlights were off and she knew that whoever was in it was up to no good. She slipped off of the swing and went into the house, shutting and locking the door behind her. “Walker!” she shouted, but then screamed and fell forward onto the floor as the car opened fire and sprayed the front of Walker’s house with bullets.

Walker ran to the upstairs front window and fired several shots, but the car raced away and he wasn’t able to see the license in the dark. He then ran downstairs to find Alex lying face down in front of the splintered door. “Oh god, Alex!” he cried as he ran to her still form.

He knelt beside her and checked her for injury. He could see nothing in the pitch black dark, so he turned on the lights and used his eyes to assess the damage. There was no blood on her legs or oozing from her t-shirt. He couldn’t find any injury on her back, so he turned her over and then gasped at what he saw. Her forehead was swollen and purple and there was blood dripping from a gash near her temple.

Alex began to moan and her hand came up to cradle her head. Walker restrained her hand and then looked at her closely. The bullet had grazed her temple, but had not penetrated her head. He looked at the stairwell post and saw a hole in it that he felt was probably from the bullet that had wounded her. “Stay put,” he ordered her and gently laid her down before racing for the phone. He called 911 and requested an ambulance to his address; he then requested that highway patrol be on the alert for a dark sedan with tinted windows carrying teenagers with weapons. He couldn’t give a make, model or color, so he knew that chances were slim they would be apprehended. Finally, he asked for a team to be sent out to go over his house. He then hung up and called Trivette directly. He asked him to come out and head the investigation at the house and to call C.D. to meet him and Alex at the hospital.

He hung up and got a compress to slow the bleeding at Alex’s temple. While she held it in place, he ran to the kitchen and got a bag of ice to apply to the swelling. He then raced upstairs and pulled on clothes, he was wearing only his briefs, and went into the guestroom to grab shorts to slip on Alex. She let him pull her shorts up and fasten them and then he slipped her shoes on her bare feet and pulled his own boots on. There was glass everywhere and neither of them needed to get glass in their feet.

The ambulance arrived and assessed Alex. Her vitals were good, but the EMT’s were worried about shock, so they hooked up an IV and got her loaded onto a gurney to take into the hospital. The police arrived and Walker told them as much as he knew in a brusque voice and then hopped into the back of the ambulance with Alex.

At the hospital, Alex was given a CAT scan and checked by the ER doctor on call. She was pronounced fit, with one heck of a headache and kept overnight for observation. C.D. was there to keep Walker restrained while they waited for all the tests to be completed and by the time Trivette arrived, Alex was in a room and sleeping, drugged from the pain medicine they had given her.

“What happened?” Trivette asked. “Your house looks like the drive by from hell came through.”

“That just about sums it up. I guess they were keeping their promise.”

“Payback’s a bitch,” Trivette repeated.

“What the hell are you two talking about?” C.D. asked.

“Remember that caller from the interview show?” Trivette asked him.

“Yeah, did you ever figure out who that was?”

“We sure did. It was none other than Oscar Garcia himself. He called from the prison.”

“Damn!” C.D. exploded, “Prisoner’s rights, my ass.”

“That’s also what was spray painted on her car.”

“But how did they know where she was staying?” Walker asked, voicing his thoughts out loud.

“That damned Martin Lester all but told them,” C.D. answered.

Walker remembered the questions the interviewer had asked. C.D. was right; he’d made it sound as if they were lovers and so of course when the gang members couldn’t find her at home, they found her at his house.

“What I don’t get is how Alex was in the line of fire. I mean, I know she’s been staying in the downstairs guestroom,” Trivette paused to let Walker deny that supposition, “but, why was she in the foyer?”

“She wasn’t, she was on the porch.”

“Dear god, what in tarnation was she doing on the porch?” C.D. bellowed.

“C.D., keep it down,” Trivette admonished him.

“Well?” he asked Walker.

“You know that she hasn’t been sleeping. The last two mornings when I got up, I found her on the porch swing. I guess she goes there when she’s tired of lying in bed awake. She must have got up and gone out there at some point. I guess she was awake, because she had come in and shut the door before the shooting started. She called my name from the stairwell and then I heard the gunfire and she screamed. I grabbed my revolver and headed to the front upstairs window. When I got there, the car was speeding off. I got a few shots off, but I didn’t do any damage. I went downstairs and that’s when I found Alex.”

“That must have scared the life out of you,” C.D. opined.

“It did. She was lying face down and unconscious. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong until I turned on the light and turned her over. I saw that gash…” Walker didn’t finish. He’d revealed enough in what he’d just said. “Listen, you two go on home and get some sleep. I’ll stay with her and stand guard. We’re going to have to figure out what to do tomorrow. They obviously have a vendetta out against her.”

“I’ll show up tomorrow with everything that you’ll need to disappear until we can get the rest of these guys arrested,” Trivette promised.

Walker nodded at him, “Thanks, partner,” Walker said, bestowing the greatest compliment he could on him.

Alex slept through the night with the aid of painkillers. She awoke the next morning with a head that felt like an anvil had been dropped on it and no one had thought to lift it off. She squinted her eyes as she took in the scene around her. She was in a hospital bed and she was the only one in the room. She wondered where Walker was, but then closed her eyes and drifted back to blissful sleep where the pounding in her ears was dimmed to a dull roar.

“Here you go, Walker. I’ve packed a bag for you and one for Alex. I just threw whatever in there; I hope you have what you need. Oh, and I scraped off a whole counter full of makeup stuff for Alex. I’ve never known a woman who would travel without it. Here’s a cell phone. It’s untraceable and only I know the number. Call me if you need anything, but call this number,” Trivette handed him a business card with a number printed on the back. “This is a cell phone that no one knows I have.”

“Trivette, you’d think we were testifying against the mob,” Walker said wryly.

“Walker, I did some research last night. This guy Oscar has been arrested before. He’s never been convicted because there are never any witnesses to testify. He has them all killed and that includes his own parents.”

“What?”

“Yeah man and the pictures were gruesome. You get yourself and Alex the hell out of Dodge. I’ll put together a team and we’ll take this guy down all the way to the ground.”

“Maybe I should stay and help. We can put Alex in a safe house.”

“From what I can tell, the only person on this earth he cared about besides himself was his brother. You’re the only person who has a prayer of keeping Alex alive. You worry about taking care of her and I’ll make sure this scum is sunk so deep in the mire that he can’t reach you.”

“Thanks, Trivette, I owe you.”

“No you don’t. Hey, I’m your partner; it’s my turn to have your back. Oh, here, keys to a car in the doctors’ parking lot. It’s in spot 423C.”

The two men clapped each other on the shoulder. Walker turned to go back into the hospital room, but he stopped and turned back to Trivette. “You make sure C.D. is safe too, will you? They may track us to his place.”

“One step ahead of you partner. I’ve got a pair of DPD officers on ‘C.D. duty’ round the clock. Trust me; he tried to strip my hide when he found out.”

Walker smiled and then headed back into Alex’s room. He waited for her to wake up and when she did, he sat there smiling at her. “Hi there, how do you feel?”

“Forget that, how do I look? Where’s a mirror?”

“Alex, you look fine, you’re as beautiful as always.”

“Yeah right, don’t try and flatter me, Walker, get me a mirror.”

Lucky for Walker, a nurse came in just at that moment and saw the problem. “Ms. Cahill you have a nasty bruise, but no permanent damage. When the bandage comes off, you can cover it with makeup. You’ve got five tiny stitches that should come out in a week, but you shouldn’t have a scar.” She handed Alex a mirror, knowing that she was imagining it worse than it was.

Alex wasn’t happy with the purple swelling that extended down to her upper cheek. She waited for the nurse to peel the bandage back and gasped at the dark line of silk stitches that traced the bullet’s trajectory across her temple. The area looked ugly and sore. She winced just looking at it. The nurse showed Walker how to dress the wound and gave him a bag of gauze and tape. She then gave him another bag with medication in it and a pair of scissors that would remove the tiny stitches when the time came. She knew that Alex was in danger and that this had been an attack on her life. She was in on the conspiracy to get Alex safely out of the hospital. She also gave Walker a bag of hygiene products just in case they needed anything. Walker left while she helped Alex to dress. She then placed a floppy straw hat on Alex’s head and a pair of sunglasses on her face. Between the two, you couldn’t tell that she was a patient leaving the hospital.

Walker changed into different clothes and waited in the stairwell while they took Alex down a staff elevator and out a back way to meet him. The nurse guided her to him without going out to any areas that weren’t restricted to hospital personnel. “Go up these stairs and out over the boardwalk to the parking structure. The car is parked in the third row over, 423C,” she repeated Trivette’s instructions.

Walker and Alex thanked her for her help and then quietly exited the hospital in disguise. Walker stopped short when he saw the car parked in 423C. It was a Dodge Dart, brown with tan upholstery. “That Trivette has quite the sense of humor,” he drawled. At least it was a Dodge. He helped Alex into the front seat and started the car. They drove out into the Dallas traffic and out onto the open road.

Alex laid her head back and dozed while Walker drove. His first destination was a motel just the other side of the Texas/Oklahoma border. He wanted her out of the state, but he didn’t want to go straight to the reservation until he was certain that they weren’t being followed. The hospital had agreed to make it look as if she was still hospitalized there and Trivette had a female officer ensconced in the room with her face bandaged and a blonde wig on. Two officers stood watch outside. If they were lucky, no one even knew that they were gone. Still, Walker wasn’t taking any chances.

Walker went through a drive-thru taco place and ordered them lunch. He then drove into the motel and rented a room on the top floor where he could see the traffic coming and going. Alex was too nauseous to eat and merely drank some soda and took more pills before going to bed. The small room air conditioner didn’t even begin to cut the heat and Walker risked a trip to the icemaker to get enough ice to bathe her body in ice water to cool it. He helped her strip down to bra and panties and then he let her lay down while he sponged her with the cool water. Alex was too drugged to protest the intimacy. Not that she necessarily would have.

Walker sat at the window, watching the motel parking lot to determine which cars belonged to which guests and looking for anything suspicious or threatening. He would glance behind him every once in awhile to check on Alex, but the painkillers were potent and she slept for hours. When she finally woke up at 4:30, she was groggy and sweaty. “I want to take a shower,” she told Walker.

He walked over to the side of the bed and took off her bandage and then replaced it with a waterproof strip the nurse had given him just for that purpose. Alex was still dizzy and unsteady on her feet. He wasn’t certain if it was the drugs, the lack of food, or the injury. Most likely, a combination of all three. “I think you should take a bath, Alex.”

“No, I want a cool shower.”

Walker frowned, but decided not to argue. She was in a petulant mood, definitely not normal for Alex. He realized that she probably felt awful and was doing her best to remain civil. “Okay, but I’m staying with you,” he declared. He expected an argument, but was surprised not to get one.

Alex dug through the bags until she found shampoo and conditioner and then she found a loose top and shorts to wear with underwear. She headed into the bathroom and closed the door in Walker’s face. No words were spoken. He heard the lock click, but he pounded on the door and hollered. “Leave it unlocked or I’ll break it down.” Apparently, she believed him, because after he heard the flush of the toilet, the lock was undone.

Alex turned on the shower and balanced herself against the edge of the tub. Movement made her seasick and she wasn’t sure this was such a good idea. She managed to step in and sighed with relief as the cool spray washed over her. It helped. After about ten minutes, she summoned the energy to shampoo her hair. She rinsed and applied the conditioner, but another wave of dizziness hit and she began to fall and grabbed for the shower curtain.

Walker had been standing just on the other side of the door, waiting to see if she needed help. He heard her startled cry as she lost her balance and was there instantly, giving her his arm to steady her. “Come on, that’s enough, you need to get out now,” he told her while trying to remain clinical and detached.

“No, I have to rinse the conditioner out,” Alex protested.

Walker stood holding her around the waist while she lifted her hands to lift her hair and rinse the conditioner from it. His eyes were treated to the sight of her bare breasts slick with conditioner with water cascading from them. He couldn’t look away without risking his own balance and he never thought to close his eyes.

After Alex finished rinsing her hair, she reached to turn the water off and overbalanced herself. It was all Walker could do to stay upright and keep his grip on her. She was so slick, she slipped right through his hands. He pulled her back against his chest and lifted her clear of the tub. After she was standing dripping on the tiny floor mat next to him, he looked around, wondering what to do next. He reached for a towel and wrapped it around her and sat her on the closed toilet lid. Then he reached in and turned the water off.

Walker looked down and saw that he was nearly as drenched as she, even though he had never technically gotten into the shower. Alex sat on the toilet with her hair stringy around her face and water dripping. The small motel towel did nothing to hide her attributes. He realized that she was very out of it or she would have made some effort to cover herself. He walked out to the other room and grabbed the freshly laundered denim shirt she’d slept in while at the ranch. He helped her into it and buttoned it all the way up. He was having enough trouble breathing without having to continue looking at her amazing body.

He took a second towel and wrapped her hair up on top of her head. He then gathered the impromptu medical kit and removed the waterproof plaster so that he could rebandaged her wound with fresh ointment and gauze. After completing that task, he took the towel from her hair and gently combed her hair out. He then lifted her to her feet and escorted her into the main room. Sitting her in a chair with arms, he ordered her, “Don’t move,” and then went to complete his own shower, since he was halfway there.

Alex was sitting directly in front of the air conditioner with a wet head and was soon shivering. Walker returned to the main room to find her with her teeth chattering. “This is ridiculous,” he said, mostly to himself. He felt as if they were in a comedy and he was the straight man who didn’t get any of the jokes. He picked up her underwear and shorts that she had planned to wear and slid them up her legs as one, standing her up to fasten them in place. He flipped off the a/c and walked around gathering up all that they had brought with them.

Alex merely sat complacently in the chair watching Walker’s movement, but without registering the meaning of anything. She felt as if she was dreaming and she couldn’t do anything to impact the outcome of the dream; so she merely watched it all unfold in front of her.

“Stay here,” he said and headed out with their luggage. He stowed it all in the car and stopped by the office to check out of the room. He then went back for Alex and helped her into the car where she immediately resumed her sleep. He was getting worried about her and wondered if it was a more serious head injury than the doctors had thought. He decided to contact Trivette to see if he could check with the doctor and find out what he should do and if he should be worried.

“Walker?” Trivette answered almost on the first ring. Since only Walker had the number to the cell phone, he was confident that he knew who was calling.

“Yeah, Trivette, how’s it going?”

“It’s bad, man.”

“What? What happened?”

“Well, C.D. came to the hospital to keep up appearances that he was visiting Alex. It was damned lucky he showed when he did. The two policemen guarding the door were both shot with a silencer and C.D. just barely stopped the man from shooting the policewoman who was posing as Alex.”

“Anyone killed?”

“No, but if it hadn’t happened right there in the hospital, at least one of the officers would have died. As it is, Officer Davis will never walk without a cane, he suffered damage to his spinal cord, but it wasn’t severed, which they tell me is the good news.”

“And C.D.?”

“I tell you, Walker, he’s a tough old bird. He decked the shooter with one blow from behind. Used the bed pan, of all things, to cold cock him. The two officers I had guarding him rushed in and cuffed the punk before he could regain consciousness. He’s one of Oscar Garcia’s lieutenants. One thing’s for sure, they know that Alex is out of the hospital now. I don’t know where you are or where you’re heading and frankly, I don’t want to know, but Walker, if you thought of going to the reservation…”

“You think they’ll be able to trace us?”

“Walker, my investigations are making me more nervous than I was this morning.”

 “What’d you find?”

“Well, you know that I told you Garcia has never stood trial… well, it looks like he does have mob connections. I can’t prove anything yet, but I think he’s been working as a hitman for the Carpetti’s.”

“What? Damn Trivette, how many times have we tried to get the goods on Leo Carpetti?”

“More times than I can count and we’ve done some damage, so has Alex in a few court cases.”

“Yeah, but it’s all been small potatoes.”

“True, but I’d say she was on Carpetti’s radar screen and so are you for that matter. I don’t think Carpetti would extend himself to help Garcia out, but if they have the same goal…”

“They would both benefit from Alex and me permanently disappearing.”

“You got it partner. So, my best advice is to go somewhere that even I wouldn’t look for you.”

“Therein lies the problem, my friend.”

“What’s that?”

“It’s Alex. Trivette, she’s not right. She’s totally out of it. She hasn’t eaten and says that she’s nauseous. She’s dizzy and unsteady on her feet. She tried to shower and nearly fell. She’s also acting like a petulant child one minute and then is totally complacent the next, neither of which is how I would normally describe Alex. She’s also slept the entire day.”

“Let me see if I can track down her doctor and see what I can find out. I’ll call you back when I know something.”

Walker hung up the cell phone and thought for a bit. He had planned to take Alex to Uncle Ray’s cabin, but now he was afraid that Carpetti would be able to track them there. Still, he couldn’t keep driving around aimlessly and he needed someplace where he could discreetly get some medical help for Alex. He squared his shoulders and headed for the reservation. If Carpetti was going to send someone after him, he’d have back up there and he could warn the people who lived there of the potential danger.

Walker had arrived at Uncle Ray’s cabin and had carried a sleeping Alex in and laid her gently on the bed. She moaned slightly, but didn’t wake. He then brought in their luggage and hid the car in the small barn that Uncle Ray had left fairly empty. He heard a noise at the back door and crouched down, his gun drawn. “Greetings, Washo,” he heard White Eagle say.

“White Eagle, thank god it’s you.”

White Eagle smiled, forgiving Walker for thanking a god not of his people. “The spirits have told me that you are in danger. And the woman, Alex, she is ill.”

“Yes, I don’t know what’s wrong with her. She was shot, but the bullet only grazed her temple. The doctor said that she would be okay, but she isn’t.”

White Eagle walked into the guest bedroom where Walker had laid Alex on top of the covers. He pulled out a large feather and then he walked around the bed, chanting and praying. Walker stood respectfully quiet while White Eagle conducted his version of an examination. “Her body is poisoned, Washo. We must cleanse it.”

“Poisoned?” Walker asked. He went to the bag of medications that he’d been given at the hospital. Pulling out the pain pills, he took them from the bottle. They were just pills, he couldn’t be certain what they were, but she had gotten worse the more she’d taken. “What can I do?” Walker asked.

“Bring her to the sweat lodge; we will sweat the poison from her system. I will gather the others.”

Walker knew what was required of him. He stripped Alex of everything and left her lying on the bed with a sheet lightly draped over her while he too stripped. There was a soft knock at the door and the sound of retreating moccasin feet. He opened the door and picked up the clothing that had been left there. He put the loincloth on and then took the soft deerskin dress and put it on Alex. Her breathing seemed a little labored and he was getting more frightened by the minute. He was about to pick her up and leave when he remembered that he needed to call Trivette.

“Trivette, Alex has been poisoned. I don’t know the details yet, but it looks like it was the prescription painkillers. Look into it, but be careful,” he warned his friend.

“You got it, Walker. Is she going to be okay?”

“God willing,” Walker answered.

It was about a half a mile over uneven terrain to the sweat lodge. Walker lifted Alex and carried her out of the small cabin planning to carry her the entire way. He smiled when he saw his friend Billy Gray Wolf standing out in the yard with a stretcher made from strong tree limbs with cowhide stretched between them. He gently laid Alex down and without a word; the two men lifted her as one and carried her to the sweat lodge.

When they arrived, there were twenty people there before them. Each was wearing the traditional dress and the women were there as well as the men. Walker and Billy carried the stretcher bearing Alex into the center of the dome shaped room and laid it down. There were two fires burning, one at each end of the stretcher. Each had heated rocks surrounding them and water was poured on the rocks to create the steam.

White Eagle approached and held out a jar of salve to the two women who approached Alex silently. They took the salve and looked to the men who all turned their backs and began to chant. Removing her dress, the women smeared the salve all over her body. It drew the fluids out through her skin and the poison along with it. Chanting was a constant in this ritual and White Eagle prayed in his native tongue. After the salve was applied, Alex was wrapped in wet animal hides and the men turned back around to sit in a ring around her and continue their prayer.

Alex whimpered and thrashed as she grew increasingly warm. Another woman entered and brought cold water that she dripped into Alex’s mouth slowly. Alex reflexively swallowed the water and the woman dripped more. Walker participated in the ritual, but his focus was not on his prayers, but on the woman who lay stretched out before him. He was angry and frustrated that he hadn’t been able to protect her for even one day. He felt a hand rest on his arm and he looked into the wise eyes of White Eagle. No words were spoken, they weren’t needed. Walker took a deep breath and released his negative emotions. They wouldn’t help Alex and that was all he cared about right now.

An hour later, the steam was lessened and the chanting stopped. The men filed out of the lodge and the women entered. Walker was led away by the men and the women went in to care for Alex.

Black Cloud, the doctor on the reservation, met Walker at Billy’s house, where Walker found himself at the end of the sweat. “Washo, it is good to see you my brother.”

“Black Cloud, it’s been too long.”

“Yes, do you have the pills that White Eagle told me they gave to Alex?”

“They’re at Uncle Ray’s cabin.”

“Well, the women should have Alex bathed and put to bed by now. I want to take a look at her anyway.”

Walker bid the other men goodnight, glad to have enjoyed their company and thanked them for the friendship and the support they offered with no questions asked. He walked into the warm night air with Black Cloud at his side and didn’t even think of the fact that they were both wearing only loin clothes. He fell into his old customs the minute he stepped onto the reservation.

The women waited until Walker was home and then they took their leave. Black Cloud looked at the pills she’d been given and he swore quietly. “Damn Walker, this is a potent psychogenic drug. A few days of this and she would have been either trying to kill you or herself.”

“Do you think she’ll be okay?”

“How many did she take?”

“One this morning, one around noon and one more just before five this evening. I don’t know what they were giving her in the hospital.”

“She should be fine. Her pupils are normal and reactive and she seems to be sleeping comfortably. I would let her sleep tonight, but get her to drink as much fluid as possible, preferably water.”

“Okay, I will. Any other advice?”

“No, just wait till morning before offering her food and keep it bland for a day or so. And of course, no more of these,” he said as he held up the prescription drugs.

“Can you take those with you? Keep them as evidence, Trivette will send someone to get them from you.”

“I sure will. Sam Coyote has posted guards to keep watch tonight. You’re safe here, get some sleep.”

Walker thanked his friend and escorted him out. He locked up and then woke Alex enough to get her to drink something. He looked at the armchair in the room, but he was exhausted. It had been three days since he’d slept through the night and he finally sank down on the bed next to Alex and they both slept till morning.

Walker woke to Alex’s crying. He turned in the bed and gathered her close. She sank into him and sobbed out her fear and sorrow. She had once again dreamt of the shooting and it plagued her that she had caused the death of another human being. Walker soothed her with words and then smoothed her hair back from her forehead, being gentle with the damaged area.

“Oh Walker, I wish I could take time back and things could be different,” she said.

“I know, but I don’t know what either one of us could have done differently. You did what you had to do. He caused his own death; he just made you a part of it.”

Alex nodded and then she tilted her chin and sought solace in his kiss. Walker covered her lips with his own and kissed her gently with the intent of offering comfort. His intentions were soon forgotten as the touch and taste of her invaded his senses and he lost all thought but the pleasure he got from her kisses.

Alex opened her mouth and moaned slightly as his tongue invaded the welcoming warmth of her and their tongues dueled in a languid dance that turned their bones to jelly. His hands reached down to the bottom of the denim shirt she was once again wearing. His hand edged up under the bottom of it to explore the smooth skin of her back and then it trailed back down to cup her bottom. She shifted to accommodate him and felt the hard reaction their closeness had caused pressing against her soft belly.

Walker was lost in the moment as passion took over and he could think of nothing else but sinking deep into Alex’s body and celebrating life. He released her mouth to trail warm wet kisses down her chin and to her neck. He pushed her back slightly and unbuttoned the top button of the shirt and kissed the exposed skin. Next, he unbuttoned the second button and explored the flesh it exposed. The third button gave him access to the tops of her breasts. He licked his tongue over the rounded flesh and it rose up to meet him.

Alex’s hands were exploring the expanse of his shoulders and back. He was bare to the waist and she loved the feel of his skin beneath her fingers. She reached her hands down so that her fingers dipped below the waistband of his shorts and she scratched him from the top of his buttocks to the points of his shoulders with the tips of her nails, causing him to arch his back and press more closely against her.

They both were past the point of no return and neither one of them realized it. The sudden knock on the door had Walker bolting away from her as if he’d been electrocuted. “Damn!” he muttered, but even he wasn’t sure if he was cursing the loss of control or the interruption.

After he left the room, Alex eased out of the bed and tested her feet on solid ground. She was woozy, but by holding onto things, she managed a trip to the bathroom. She stripped off and tugged the bandage off her head before stepping into the spray of the shower. She soaped and lathered and shaved and cleansed herself thoroughly before stepping back out to dry off.

She stood looking at her reflection in the mirror and grimaced at the green and yellow coloring that covered the top fourth of the left side of her face. She realized that she probably shouldn’t have gotten the stitches wet, but it was too late now. She left the wound open to dry and she brushed her teeth and applied makeup and fixed her hair. All of these things she did in an attempt to return normalcy to her upside down life. When she finished dressing, she walked out to the kitchen to see if she could get something to eat. She found that she was starved and very thirsty.

Walker was in the kitchen cooking oatmeal when she walked in. “Hi,” she greeted, suddenly shy.

“Hi,” he answered. “A friend dropped off some groceries. I thought you might be hungry.”

“Famished,” she responded.

“Have a seat, it’s almost ready.”

“I guess this knock on the head was worse than we thought. I don’t remember much about yesterday. I had some wild dreams though about being carried and then there was chanting…” Alex trailed off, putting together the fact that they were at Uncle Ray’s cabin at the reservation. “How much was a dream?”

“Someone slipped you some potent psychogenic medication, but your memory is intact. White Eagle prepared a sweat for you to purge your body of the toxins. Black Cloud checked you last night and said that you should be fine, but that you should eat a bland diet today and drink plenty of water.”

“Slipped me some bad medication? Who would do that?”

Walker filled her in on the missing pieces. “That reminds me, I need to call Trivette.” No sooner had he said that than the phone rang. “Walker,” he answered.

“Hi partner, how’s Alex?”

“Better, she’s sitting here having breakfast with me.”

“That’s good. I talked to the doctor and he said that you should keep giving her the pain killers and to increase the dose if she needed it.”

Walker filled him in on what Black Cloud had discovered. “Oh man, you think the doctor is in on it?”

“I’d check him out. If he has ties to Carpetti, he may have been blackmailed.”

“That’s true. Damn, I just don’t know who to trust anymore. So you ended up where I thought you would.”

“Yes, but I don’t plan to stay. I just had to get Alex healthy. We’ll leave later today after we stock up on supplies.”

“Listen, I’m going to send a chopper to pick you up and take you somewhere that you don’t know. I’ll have a car waiting there and you can drive to anywhere you like. That way, there won’t be a way to trace you.”

“What about the helicopter pilot?”

“Hey, trust me; I’ll get someone who won’t talk.”

They hung up agreeing that it would be to their advantage to spend the morning setting up his and Alex’s hideaway plans.

Alex managed to get Walker to take her to the reservation store so that she could purchase the items that Jimmy hadn’t packed for her. When she finished picking out her choices, Walker added a bag on top of her purchases.

“What’s that for?” she asked.

“Alex, your bag was already full. How do you plan to carry all this?”

“It’s not THAT much,” she defended.

Walker rolled his eyes at her. “We’re on the run, hiding out. We’re supposed to be traveling light.”

“Well, who said that we had to live like animals just because we’re hiding out?” she asked rhetorically.

Walker wisely stood silently aside as she paid for her purchases. They drove back out to Uncle Ray’s cabin and unloaded the items she had bought as well as the groceries they had purchased. They ate lunch, showered again, in case it was awhile before they got another chance and were ready when the chopper landed in the field behind Uncle Ray’s.

As the helicopter lifted, White Eagle waved to them from a hilltop and then disappeared from sight. Suddenly, a spray of bullets ricocheted off the sides of the helicopter just as they were gaining altitude. Walker pulled his weapon and started to return fire, but saw that Sam Coyote and his men had things well in hand. He called Trivette from the air and told him of the arrests. Sam would keep the two men in custody until Trivette could have them picked up; along with the evidence Black Cloud was holding for him.

The helicopter flew them south until Walker was certain they had left Texas and were in Mexico. The helicopter landed and the pilot waved them off without a word. Alex ducked her head to shield her face from the blowing sand. They were in an arid land and it was summer. It was going to be hot.

Walker picked up the ice chest and as many bags as he could carry and Alex grabbed up the rest. There was an old Buick station wagon parked under a garage, out of sight of the helicopter pilot so that he would not be able to describe their vehicle even if he wanted to. Trivette had thought of everything.

They loaded the car and then Walker opened a box that was under the front seat. “Courtesy of your friend, Jesse Rodriguez,” he read aloud.

“Jesse? I haven’t heard you talk about him in awhile. Do you still keep in touch?”

“Yes, but I haven’t seen him in some time. It was good thinking on Trivette’s part to bring him into this. No one should be able to make the connection.”

“Walker, if we’re in so much danger, aren’t the other people who were there also in danger? And what about Trivette?”

“The other witnesses are all being given protection. Now that the connection to the Carpetti family is pretty well established, I imagine the Feds will get involved as well. Don’t worry about Trivette; he knows to watch his back. He’s got C.D. under protection too, just in case they try to get to us through him. The best thing we can do now is stay well hidden.”

“You’re sure that all of this is necessary?”

“Alex, if they wanted to find us badly enough to track us to the reservation, then yes, I think it’s necessary.”

Alex just nodded, trusting Walker’s judgment. They drove the big Buick down one dusty road after another until they came to a small village that was nestled in the hills. “Let’s see what we can find in the way of accommodations here,” Walker suggested.

There wasn’t a hotel, but Walker was able to rent a small house for them to stay in. His command of the Spanish language helped him to convince the villagers that he was taking his bride on a trip through Mexico for an extended honeymoon. Alex stayed in the car with her oversized hat on so that no one would see the bruises on her face. The fewer people who could identify them, the better.

After securing the keys for the small house, Walker returned to the car and drove to it. He parked the car and grabbed the ice chest with the perishable groceries, hoping to get them put away as quickly as possible. Alex followed behind with the dry goods and she took the chance to survey the tiny house. There was one bedroom with a queen sized bed and a tiny bathroom just off of it. The kitchen had the basics and there was a small table at the end for them to eat on. The only other room was a sitting room with bamboo styled furniture. The best part of the house was the patio outdoors that was covered with a shade awning and overlooked a fountain. She looked around and decided that she and Walker would be tripping over each other in no time.

Walker finished bringing in the rest of the luggage while Alex prepared them a simple salad and bread to eat for lunch. She wasn’t going to even attempt to cook on the wood stove she found in the kitchen until Walker had checked it out first. The house did have electricity that ran the refrigerator and the ceiling fans, the only means of cooling the house. The fountain also ran on an electric pump and she decided to set the meal on the table on the patio where there was at least the possibility of a breeze.

She called Walker to the table and they sat looking at each other and realizing their fate for at least the next several days. “At least the fountain gives you the illusion that it’s cool,” she said in attempted optimism.

“Yeah, the ceiling fans should help some too if we keep the shutters closed during the heat of the day.”

“Whose house is this?”

“Apparently the man who owns most of the land here had it built so that he could vacation here once in awhile. He lives in Mexico City and comes here to get away with his latest… conquest. Rumor has it that his wife won’t be caught dead in this small village and so he is safe to bring his girlfriends here without fear of being caught.”

“You sure managed to get a lot of detail in such a short time,” Alex commented.

“Well, I wanted to make sure that the owner wouldn’t be showing up unexpectedly. The owner of the little market where I got the keys is the brother of the owner. He said that he won’t be coming for at least another month, so we can have it until then.”

“God forbid that we’re here that long.”

“Amen,” Walker concurred.

They finished their meal and then Alex cleared the dishes and washed them in the tiny kitchen. She went into the bedroom to unpack and found that there were no closets, but rather, a free standing wardrobe. She went ahead and unpacked both her and Walker’s clothes, trying to make it as comfortable as possible. She placed their bags under the bed and then went to see what Walker had found to occupy his time.

Walker had decided to do a little weeding in the tiny garden that comprised the back yard. He had done as much work as there was to do and it had only taken him less than an hour. He finally had found a scrub brush and decided to scrub out the fountain. Alex found him when he was about half done with that project.

“Isn’t it too hot to do anything manual?” she asked him.

“It’s not as hot as when I go into the badlands.”

“Yeah, I guess. But then, I’ve never understood your reasons for doing that either. Walker, I don’t even have a book with me, I’m going to go stir crazy in no time.”

“Did you check out the entire house?” he asked.

“What ENTIRE house? I mean, we’re talking two rooms.”

Walker chuckled at her comeback. “I meant that maybe there were some books left lying around from one of the owner’s paramours.”

“Paramours? You’ve been reading too many romance novels, Walker.” She thought he blushed, but he was already red from the heat, so it was hard to tell.

“Alex, go lie down for a bit and take a siesta. I’ll take you out on the town for dinner after it cools off. There’s a tiny restaurant and the man I met at the market said that they serve delicious food.”

Alex heaved a huge sigh, “Okay,” she agreed.

She went into the bedroom and lay down on the bed with the fan on high. She did finally fall asleep briefly, but she was sticky and hot when she got up, so she went on into the bathroom and took a shower. She dressed in a pretty sundress that she had bought at the reservation store and fixed her hair so that it covered most of her injury. She reapplied a smaller bandage to it so that it wasn’t so noticeable and then she used makeup to disguise the bruising.

Walker came in soon after she left the bedroom to go sit outside again. When he returned, he was wearing light colored slacks with a lavender colored shirt. He looked edible and she had to bite her tongue to keep from saying so. They decided to walk down to the village to extend their outing.

Alex’s sandals weren’t really made for the dry rocky terrain and Walker gave her his arm to hold onto while they descended to the town. It was dusk and there were few lights on in windows to light the way. The restaurant consisted of two tables inside and four outside. They were one of three couples who were dining out this evening and the dinner was simple, but delicious. Alex revised her opinion of Mexican food after tasting the difference between what she had eaten growing up on Tex-Mex food. This was delightfully fresh and light and the flavors melded into a fulfilling meal. They drank wine with their dinner, not willing to drink the local water for fear of repercussions.

An elderly man sat on a stool and played the guitar and sang of tragic love in Spanish while they ate and chatted. She enjoyed herself immensely, getting to see a side of Walker that was usually hidden. He spoke in a friendly manner with the waiter and other patrons, getting them to tell him about their lives in the tiny village and then sharing their stories with her. Alex smiled at the others and gestured to answer their questions as best she could.

Walker laughed at one point and grabbed her hand. “They want to know if I’m a mean ‘hombre’ and if I am the one who gave you that bruise on your face.” Alex smiled at him warmly and then turned to the others and denied that Walker was responsible. Walker made up a story of her getting it while sailing, saying that she hadn’t ducked when the boom swung around. Alex had no choice but to play along with his made up story to explain her injury.

They stayed, enjoying the villagers and their company, until after midnight. They were a novelty in the town, they didn’t get many outsiders and they asked question after question. Finally, they all admitted that they must turn in so that they could get up and do their chores before the heat forced them inside to take their afternoon siestas.

The women invited Alex to come help them make fresh corn tortillas the next day. They told her that they would be making them the traditional way. It was one of their main incomes, making the tortillas to sell in the city twenty miles away. Alex was excited by the idea of having something new to learn and a way to pass the time. She readily agreed. The men invited Walker to come with them so they could show him how they harvested the local cactus for a liquor they brewed locally and was their other main income.

Walking back to the ‘hacienda’ as Alex had affectionately dubbed it, she and Walker held hands and just enjoyed the relaxing companionship that was the basis of their relationship. The evening air had cooled slightly, but it was still a warm night and the wine and atmosphere all combined to make her feel slightly lightheaded. She stumbled, but Walker was right there with a supportive arm around her waist and she decided that she liked it there, so she leaned on him ever so slightly and they walked up to the little house that way.

Once they were inside, Walker flipped on the light and Alex blinked, “Did you have to do that?” she mumbled in complaint.

He shook his head at her. “I shouldn’t have let you drink that wine. You’re still recovering from that drug you had in your system.”

“I’m fine, but light is not my friend right now.”

“I need it on to check your stitches and put on some ointment and then you can turn it off. Here, sit down while I fix you up.” He got a bottle of water from the refrigerator, “And drink this while you’re waiting.”

Alex saluted him, but regretted her action as she bumped her forehead in the exaggerated gesture. “Ow,” she complained.

“Serves you right for getting smart with me,” he told her unsympathetically. He quickly removed her existing bandage and gently applied the ointment before putting a fresh piece of gauze and tape to cover it. “All right, you’re all set. Why don’t you head on to bed?”

“Where are you going?” she asked.

“I thought I’d bunk out here,” he stated.

“Where? The couch is bamboo, you can’t sleep on that and the floor is tile and there aren’t enough linens to cushion it. Forget it, Walker, we share the bed. You can play gallant knight with someone who’ll be impressed, but it doesn’t work on me.”

“I wasn’t trying to impress you, I was trying to give you space.”

“Look, we’re two adults. Granted, we’re two adults who happen to be extremely attracted to one another, but hey, you stay on your side of the bed and I’ll stay on mine. I’m not going to attack you, you know.”

“And what makes you think I won’t attack you?” he questioned.

“What makes you think I’d mind if you did?” she quipped.

Walker decided that they had better stop the verbal flirting before it led to anything more physical. “Okay, you win. But you better stay on your side,” he mock warned.

“Don’t worry, all I want to do is sleep,” she claimed. She headed on into the bedroom and got undressed, pulling on a light nightshirt and then pulled the covers down to the bottom of the bed. She took the light blanket and rolled it lengthwise and laid it down the middle of the bed. When Walker came in, she was on the left side with the blanket rolled and lying to the right of her.

“What’s this?” he laughed.

“That’s the line, this is my side, that’s yours and make sure you don’t forget it, Cowboy.” She turned so that her back was to him and closed her eyes.

Walker chuckled at her. Get a little wine into her and she got bossy. He stripped down to his briefs and then pulled on a pair of jogging shorts for propriety’s sake. He looked at her in the sheer nightshirt and wondered if he should tell her that he could see right through it. He decided against it and instead flipped the light off.

He lay listening to the sound of the fan as it masked the sound of Alex’s soft breathing. He fell asleep as soon as he was certain that she was also asleep.

Alex slept well for the first time since the incident. As time passed, it did heal wounds, even those you couldn’t see. It also helped, that her brain wasn’t muddled by the drugs she had been given. She was able to put what had happened into perspective and although she would always regret having killed Pedro Garcia, she knew that she couldn’t have acted differently.

The next morning, Walker awoke to a tickling sensation under his nose. He blinked his eyes open and found that Alex’s head rested on his shoulder and it was her hair that was tickling him. He shifted slightly so that her head lowered just a bit and he lay there holding her in his arms, fantasizing about what it would be like to wake this way every morning. He was beginning to realize that he was on a dangerous path when her head shifted up and she looked into his eyes with those big blue eyes of hers. “You’re on my side,” he greeted her.

“You’re on my side too,” she countered. She was right, her head was technically on his side, but his legs were entwined with hers on her side of the bed.

“I guess we’re both guilty then,” he commented.

“Uh huh,” she agreed. She kept looking at him and he just couldn’t resist. To hell with his ideas about remaining ‘just friends’, he wanted her! He tilted his chin down and captured her lips, sucking her lower lip into his mouth. It was all the invitation that Alex needed. She rolled more onto her belly and consequently onto his.

Walker’s hands reached down and cupped her bottom as he pulled her up onto him and rubbed her up and down his growing erection. Alex was no fool and knew just where this was leading, but she wanted it as much as he did and had no plans to call a halt to it. She lifted herself up onto her elbows so that her hair framed his face and she pulled her mouth off of his and looked into his eyes. “We’ve been here before,” he muttered before delving his fingers into her hair and pulling her head back down to his mouth.

Alex was in agreement, they had been in the same position there on the riverbanks when the guide who was, in fact, a homicidal maniac had interrupted them. Thank god for no interruptions, she thought to herself as his tongue entered her mouth. She slid her legs apart so that she was straddling him and she rocked her pelvis gently against him, letting him know that she was as into this coupling as he was.

Walker’s hands reached down again to cup her bottom and he encouraged her motions even though they were driving him insane. He was as hard as he’d ever been and he was afraid that he wasn’t going to be able to hold back his climax long enough to please her. He suddenly pulled her up higher so that her breasts were dangling in front of his face. He grabbed the bottom of her nightshirt and pulled it up over her head. Feasting his eyes on her bare breasts, he lifted his head and sucked the nearest nipple into his mouth.

Alex couldn’t help herself, she cried out with the sensation that shot through her entire body as his warm mouth clamped down on her aching nipple. She began to ride him, through the barriers of clothing as she searched for her own release.

Walker suddenly rolled, pinning her beneath him to still her torturous motion while he tried to regain some control. He switched to her other breast while his hand slipped into her panties and provided her with the stimulation she was seeking. His hand pumped against her mound, causing her to breathe in tiny gasps that spoke of her need. He stood up off of the bed and captured her gaze as he lowered his shorts and briefs. Her eyes left his to survey his masculine magnificence. He was long, lean and muscled. His engorged member was throbbing with the need to possess her and her body was ready to accept him. She looked back into his eyes and she pulled her panties down showing him the silk curls and then pushing them down her legs while his eyes locked onto her.

He moved back toward the bed and was just about to lie down on top of her when the cell phone rang. Walker cursed in a fashion that Alex had never heard him do. He went over to the wardrobe where his slacks hung and pulled out the phone, “Hello,” he answered in a gruff voice.

“Hey Walker, sorry, did I wake you up?”

“Whatcha got, Trivette?” Walker asked, not answering his partner’s question.

            “I checked out the doctor and managed to tie him to Carpetti. I threatened him with attempted murder charges and he’s singing to the Feds now.”

Alex shifted onto her hands and knees and scooted to the end of the bed. She wasn’t about to let Trivette deny her the pleasure her body was craving. She reached out and gently clasped Walker’s drooping member. It responded, immediately standing back up in attention. Walker wasn’t sure what to do, but his body apparently had no such reservations.

“So, what’s next?” Walker asked in a strangled voice.

“Well, I need to do some more legwork here, getting the rest of the gang members rounded up and of course, we still haven’t busted Carpetti. You and Alex should stay just where you are until I get word to you,” Trivette answered.

Walker looked down; Alex had gently tugged on him until he had stepped to the edge of the bed. She was on her hands and knees and doing her very best to swallow him whole. He was more than happy to stay RIGHT where he was. “Okay, Trivette, keep in touch,” he managed to get out through his constricted airway.

“I will. Tell the counselor I said ‘hi.’”

“You got it,” he replied and quickly hung up as Alex managed to swallow the head of him down to the back of her throat. “Trivette says ‘hi’,” he related as he moaned in pleasure with what her tongue was doing to him.

Alex eased him out of her mouth and grinned up at him, “Hi, back,” she said and then swirled her tongue around his tip while she smiled coquettishly.

“Damn, woman, you’re going to be the death of me,” he complained as she ran her hands up the insides of his legs and gently squeezed the sacks that hung there.

“Now we can’t have that,” she demurred and then turned on the bed so that her backside was facing him at just the right height. “Walker?” she prompted, as he stood there dazed for a moment.

He needed no second bidding as he grasped his throbbing staff in his hand and slid it along her damp slit to add to the moisture her tongue had already deposited. If he remembered correctly, and he was sure that he did, she had trouble with his size and he wanted to be certain that she was ready for him. He pressed against her entrance, slowly penetrating the protective lips and she pressed back against him to facilitate his entry.

Walker pumped slowly, filling her more each time, until he finally embedded himself fully. Alex was still on her hands and knees, but her head had dropped forward and she was panting as she stretched to accommodate him. She cried out triumphantly when she felt him pressing against her cervix and then she moved to accommodate his pumping hips. His hands grasped her hips and he pulled himself out of her, only to plunge back in again. The tempo increased as they grunted and moaned the guttural sounds of mating. Walker was the first to explode as he thrust deeply into her and felt his body pumping his fluids into her womb. He leaned forward and grasped Alex’s nipples and squeezed hard, sending her spiraling out of control.

They both collapsed forward, causing him to pull out of her, but they lay in a tangled heap, panting for breath. He slid gently to the side and pulled her to him as he cradled her head against his shoulder and stroked her hair as their heartbeats resumed a normal rhythm. “Alex that was…” he couldn’t find the words to tell her how amazing it was to once again be inside her and to feel as if they had ceased to be two entities, but had melded into one.

“Absolutely perfect,” she supplied.

“Well, I don’t know about perfect…” he began.

She lifted her head to look at him. “What?”

“Well, it may have been, but I think I’ll have to try a few other positions to decide which is ‘perfect.’”

She smiled at him and leaned down to kiss him. “I’m all yours, experiment away.”

He laughed a joyous laugh that she’d never heard before. This was Walker without any guards up. This was the man he was meant to be, before fate had conspired to bring pain and heartache into his life. She was determined that one day; this man she was glimpsing would be the only one that existed. The one he allowed the world to see.

They made love until the sun warmed the room to the point where it was just not comfortable to do so and then they showered and each headed to their assigned chores for the day.

Alex enjoyed learning how to roll and then pat the tortillas in her hands into the round flat shapes that they were cooked in, but she was dizzy from the heat and had to take several rests.

            Walker helped the men to harvest the cactus and then they showed him their secrets for milking the liquid and how they buried it in a tunnel dug into the hillside in large vats to ferment.

They met at siesta time and despite the heat, managed to make love once again. They lay next to each other, not touching as the fan cooled their sweat soaked skin and they fell asleep smiling at the sheer joy of being together.

That night, they again trekked down on foot to the village and shared an evening meal with the villagers at the restaurant. Others they had met that day joined them and the restaurant was busier than on holidays. The villagers lived a secluded life and the visitors were fascinating to them.

That night, Alex showered and then came dripping into the bedroom and straddled Walker, who was already lying on the bed nude. Her hair dripped on him and he smiled up at her. “My avenging angel?” he asked.

“Watch it, buster,” she said as she ground her hips against him.

“Whatever you say ma’am, I’m at your command.”

“Just the way I like my men,” she said.

Walker stilled and she realized that she’d said something wrong. “Walker?”

“It’s okay, I just…”

Alex knew he was thinking about that morning, about her and Dalton. “I left with you, didn’t I?” she asked.

“That you did,” he said. “Alex, this has to be a place out of time for us. You understand, don’t you?”

“No, not really. I know that I hurt you, but you hurt me too. We survived, Walker. I wish you could just trust me not to make the same mistake twice, but until you’re ready to do that, I guess I’ll take what I can get.”

Walker reached his hand up to cup her face and pulled her down to him. “Let me love you,” he murmured against her lips.

Alex was more than willing to comply.

The days past one on top of the other and despite the lack of action, Alex found that she was happier than she could ever remember being. She spent her days with the women of the village. They taught her the skills that had been handed down to them for generations. When Walker commented that he liked a certain dish, she would ask them to teach her to make it and they did so with pleasure. She enjoyed playing with the children and she taught them words in English while they laughed at her attempts at Spanish. Walker took her stitches out and when she asked him to kiss it and make it ALL better; he more than took her at her word.

Walker felt almost as if he was living on the reservation. This was a world out of time. No one here had a television; the radio and telephone were their only connection to the outside. He enjoyed learning how the men won their small daily battles with the inhospitable land and he showed them a few things he had learned from his Uncle Ray, feeling a sense of peace wash over him as he shared with another generation, another people, skills that had been taught to him. He was happy, Alex was happy, and they knew that their time was nearly up.

On their sixth day at the hacienda, they received a call from Trivette. “Walker?”

“Yeah, Trivette,” he answered, trying to keep the disappointment out of his voice.

“We’ve got Carpetti in custody. The Feds busted him this morning.”

“What about Garcia?”

“Well, there seems to have been a mix up at the prison. He was allowed out in the exercise yard with his archenemy, Marvin ‘Scarface’ Young. The two men battled to the death and they both died of massive trauma and internal bleeding. There was a minor riot as the other gang members also dueled, but no other fatalities.”

            “How did that happen?” Walker asked, suspecting the answer.

“Who knows? You know how these bureaucracies run,” Trivette answered smugly. He knew that Alex’s life would never be safe as long as Oscar Garcia was alive.

“You’re amazing, Trivette.”

“Well, I figure the two wanted nothing more in life than to kill each other. This way, they got their wish and the state doesn’t have to pay to keep them in prison for the rest of their natural lives.”

“So, what do you want Alex and me to do?” Walker asked.

“Well, I can get the helicopter back to the same place he dropped you in a couple of hours. You must be ready to get out of there by now. I’m sorry that you’ve had to be exiled for so long.”

“Oh, it hasn’t been bad. We’ve made some new friends. Listen, Trivette, it’s not far from dusk here and I’d rather not fly at night. It’s going to be hard enough to find the place in the daylight. Why don’t we plan to meet the helicopter tomorrow morning at say 10:00 a.m.? That’ll give us time to thank our hosts.”

“Okay, partner, if you’re sure. I thought you’d jump at the chance to get your lives back.”

“They’ll still be there tomorrow.”

“Okay, see you then,” Trivette said and hung up.

Alex was sitting on the bed listening to the conversation. There was a tear that streaked down her cheek and Walker pulled her up against him. “Don’t cry, Alex. We both knew that there was a time limit. A week from now, you’ll wonder how you ever managed to stand the inactivity.”

“No, I won’t. And I’ll miss you, I’ll miss this,” she told him with brutal honesty.

“Maybe when we get back, we can work on making what we shared here fit into our lives back at home,” he suggested.

“Really? You’re willing to try?”

“I’m not willing not to. You’re a drug and I’m addicted. We’ll take it slow and see where it leads us.”

“Okay,” she said with a tremulous smile. “As long as it leads us together,” she added.

Walker kissed her lips and tried to convey how much he wanted a relationship between them to work.

They returned to their lives and their jobs and they worked on building trust and their relationship. It wasn’t until they were yet again taken out of their everyday lives that they once again gave into their passion for each other. They were searching for the wreckage of the Swan Song. After their return from that trip, they gave up trying to live separate lives and worked on building one life… together.

 

 

The End