The accident happens quickly. After taking the turn, they are practically on top of the fallen tree before it becomes visible through the heavy rain. Alex looks up from Angela, her eyes widen and she shouts a warning, but Walker is already cutting the wheel and stomping on the brake, but it’s too late.
The tires lose traction on the wet pavement and the car goes into a 180-degree spin that shoots it off the road and across the narrow shoulder. It flattens the barricade and plunges down the heavily vegetated ravine. Tree limbs scrape the sides of the car, hubcaps fly off and windows shatter.
Although bracing herself for the inevitable final crash, the impact of the car slamming into the massive pine tree is incredible. The hitting of the immovable object forces the rear wheels off the ground and when the car crashes down into its final resting place it seems to groan as it settles heavily into the mud.
Alex was in the back seat, strapped in by the seat belt and shoulder harness, which was the main reason she had survived. Lifting her head and hearing Angela whimper, she quickly checks the baby over and, although crying, she seems otherwise fine. When the car had plunged over the side of the ravine, Alex acting instinctively had thrown her arm out to shield her daughter, until the shoulder harness caught and held. The car seat had protected the baby.
“Walker?” He isn’t moving. She quickly releases the belt, then releases the harness of the car seat, grabs Angela in her car seat, and slides out the open door, the diaper bag falling out with her. Lying Angela’s car seat on the ground away from the car, Alex covers her with the blanket and goes to check on her husband. The car is precariously perched on the steep slope and she knows the car can slip away at any moment.
Stumbling up to the door, she sees Walker slumped over the steering wheel. Reaching in, she grips him by the shoulder and whispers his name. Giving his shoulder a slight shake, it startles her when his head flops backward against the seat. She gasps when she sees the blood trickling from the corner of his slack lips. He has a deep gash on his right temple, but otherwise his face is untouched. His eyes are closed and still, “Oh, Walker, please,” she whimpers, and reaches in and places her hand on his chest. He’s breathing.
She reaches over him and releases the seatbelt and then, without warning, the car shifts and slides several feet down the slope, dragging her along with it, nearly wrenching her arm from the socket. Finally, the car comes to a shaky stop and she feels it is only a matter of time before the massive weight of the car carries it into the swollen river. With a sudden surge of adrenaline, she manages to wedge the door open, and when she does, his body slumps into her waiting arms. His bloody head falls onto her shoulder and she falls to her knees under his dead weight. Wrapping her arms around his chest, she pulls him from under the steering wheel. Several times she loses her footing in the slippery mud, landing hard on her backside. But each time she struggles to her feet, digs her heels in and finally, pulls him free of the wreckage. His feet barely clear the door when the car begins its finale descent into the swift flowing water.
Alex kneels in the mud next to Walker and watches in horror as her car is carried to the center of the raging water and then swiftly sinks below the surface.
Unable to move Walker any further, she knows she has to get help. She digs out the baby carrier from the diaper bag and slipping it around her shoulders, she straps it tightly around her waist and slips Angela down inside it, nestling her tightly against her chest and begins the climb back up to the road.
The terrain is rough, and the weather doesn’t help. The ground is a tangle of undergrowth, vines, and jutting rocks. The wind driven rain has her soaked in minutes.
The muscles of her arms, legs, and back begin to burn with fatigue before she covers half the distance. Her exposed skin is gouged, scraped, cut, and bruised and at times she feels the urge to just lie down and sleep, but the need to get help for Walker is stronger than the temptation to quit, so she keeps plodding, taking care to make sure Angela is safe. Using vines and boulders for handholds, she pulls herself up until she finally reaches the road, where she begins walking to seek help.
She’s on the verge of collapse when she sees a pair of headlights coming toward her in the rain. Relief and exhaustion overwhelm her and she sinks to her knees in the center of the road, waiting on the car to reach her.
Between tears and broken sobs she explains about the car wreck and her injured husband lying in the mud at the bottom of the ravine. Authorities are notified and she sits in the warmth of the car, holding Angela to her breast, waiting until the rescuers arrive. When Walker is brought up to the road, she leaves the car and climbs into the ambulance to ride to the hospital with him.
At the hospital, Alex and Walker are taken to separate rooms to be treated. Once she is assured that her husband is in good hands she settles down and allows them to treat her and to exam Angela more thoroughly, determining that she truly is uninjured.
Alex sits on the padded table in the center of the examining room, cradling Angela in her arms. After having splinters of glass picked out of her arms, which seems to take forever, her wounds are treated with a local antiseptic, declining anything stronger because she is breast-feeding.
“How old is she?” the nurse asks.
“She sure is a pretty baby. What did you say her name was?”
Smiling down at them, she shakes her head in wonderment. “It’s a miracle you all survived that wreck. It must have been awful for you.”
Alex looks up at the nurse, “Can you tell me how my husband is? He was the one who was hurt, would you look and see how he is, please?”
“I’m sure the doctor will be in here soon to fill you in on his condition. While we’re waiting, is it okay if the deputy sheriff comes in now?”
“Yes, he’s been waiting outside, needs to go over the official stuff with you.”
“Oh, yes, okay, send him in.” Angela has finished nursing and Alex pulls together the hospital tunic that they have given her to replace her muddy and bloody clothes.
The deputy comes in, asking how she is and explains that he understands how it could happen; the rain had made everyone’s life miserable. Explaining what had happened as well as she can, she begins to get anxious wanting to know how Walker is.
Just then the doctor enters the room, “Well, young lady, how are you doing?”
“I’m fine, but I’m worried about my husband. How is he?”
“Alive, thanks to you.”
Alex feels tears of relief fill her eyes, “Can I see him, please?”
“I don’t see why not. He’s still unconscious, but I think hearing your voice is just what he needs right now.”
“Hey, I’m not done filling out these forms yet, doc!”
“I think that can wait. She’s upset, and I can’t give her anything to calm her down because she’s nursing.”
The deputy glances at the baby, then at Alex’s chest. His face turns the color of a ripe tomato. “Well it’s got to be done, but I guess I can wait.”
The nurse lifts the sleeping Angela from Alex’s arms, and says, “I’ll find a crib in the nursery for her, you just go see your husband.”
The doctor guides Alex down the corridor, explaining to her what she will see. “I had expected more serious injuries from the way you described the wreck, but he was lucky. No internal damage and his vital signs have stabilized. That’s the good news. The bad news is he took quite a knock to the head and X-rays show a hairline fracture to the skull. I had to take several dozen stitches to close the wound. It isn’t too pretty right now, but his hair will grow back over it. Won’t spoil his good looks too much,” he says smiling down at her. “He’s sustained a concussion, but if he’s quiet for a few days, he’ll be okay. With his leg broken like it is, he’ll be on crutches for at least a month. He won’t have much choice but to lie around, be lazy and heal.” He stops and pushes open a door, “He’s in here.”
The doctor enters the room ahead of her and as he moves out of her way, she sees Walker lying in the bed with the head raised slightly, his eyes are closed, his breathing soft and even. His left leg is in a cast, resting on a pillow. He is wearing a gown that only comes down to the middle of his thighs, and Alex smiles knowing how he hates hospital gowns. A nurse is taking his blood pressure.
As she moves closer, she sees that his hair is matted with dried blood and antiseptic solution. He has bruises of varying shades in black, blue and yellow on his arms and legs and a few contusions on his face as well, but his beard is untouched.
She moves quickly to his side, her hand taking his and holding it to her chest, she begins talking softly, hoping to wake him up. “Walker, can you hear me? Honey … please wake up.”
Hearing the soft voice, he struggles to make his body respond to the familiar voice. With his head feeling like it’s ready to explode; he slowly opens an eye, ignoring the pain that shoots through his brain. He lifts a hand to his head and feels the bandages there.
‘Where am I?’ he wonders, trying to focus. There’s a bad taste in his mouth and his body feels stiff and extremely sore. His throat works, but no sound escapes.
“He’s waking up,” Alex whispers, her voice heavy with relief. “Dr. Spalding he’s waking up!” He turns his head toward the sound, focusing his eyes on her.
He blinks rapidly, focusing on the face that’s so close to his. It’s a beautiful face, with even features, pink-tinged cheeks, and worried sky blue eyes. Long, slightly wavy, blonde hair brushes against his neck.
“Oh, God, I’m so glad you’re awake,” she says, her voice thick with emotion. Tears cling to her lashes and he notices the small lines of worry near her mouth and around her eyes.
“You had me worried for awhile there, cowboy. How are you feeling?”
His eyes dart around the room, to the television, the rails on the bed, the dripping IV hanging over his head. It slowly dawns on him that he’s in a hospital. It isn’t a bad dream after all; somehow he’s landed in a hospital bed, and with a broken leg. He grimaces as he sees the cast on his left leg.
“Good morning, Mr. Walker.” As the woman straightens and brushes away the tears, a man moves into his vision. A man he has never seen before.
“You’re a very lucky man,” the doctor says, taking his wrist in his hand and glancing at his watch. “Not many people could have survived that accident.”
Walker blinks, and swallows, trying to find his voice, “Accident?” The sound of his own voice unfamiliar and raw.
“You don’t remember?” the doctor’s smile turns into a frown.
“What am I doing here?” Walker whispers hoarsely. His eyes travel past the doctor to the woman. She’s leaning against the wall, watching him closely.
He fixes his eyes on her for several long moments. Finally, he glances up at the doctor, then at the nurse before looking back at Alex. Then, in a weak, hoarse voice, he asks, “Who are you?”
For a second Alex looks at Walker in stunned silence, expecting a ‘gotcha’ and the warm look of a trick well played. But as she looks at his face, into his eyes, she draws in a ragged breath when she doesn’t see the sparkle of recognition there. He isn’t joking; he really doesn’t know who she is!
“Who are you?” he asks again when the room becomes quiet, glancing around the room at the other faces staring at him. None of which he recognizes. His eyes swing back to the beautiful blonde at his side.
“I … your … I’m your wife.” Alex watches his face, but when she sees no sign that he knows her, she cries out, “Walker?”
His face doesn’t change he shows no fear. But Walker wouldn’t be afraid, regardless of whether he had amnesia or not, it just isn’t in the man’s makeup.
“Walker, is that my name?” his voice getting stronger by the minute.
“Yes,” her voice a whisper, “Yes,” stronger now. “Yes, that’s you name.”
“What’s my last name?”
“That-that is your last name.”
“You’re my wife, and you call me by my last name?” He gives her a look like ‘yeah, right.’
“Well, there is a long story behind that,” she says as she searches his face for any signs, any hint of recognition.
“And … what is your name?”
She smiles, thinking of some of the names he has called her since he’s known her, but she knows this isn’t the time for that. “Alex … Alexandra Cahill-Walker.
Wearing the hospital scrubs again, she picks up Angela and starts down the hall to introduce Walker to his daughter. She smiles as she thinks of his expression when he finds out he has a child.
“Hi, Cowboy,” she says when she pushes the door open. He’s sitting up in bed with his leg propped up and when he sees her, he grabs at the gown to make sure he is covered. This damn thing wouldn’t cover a midget, he mutters, then grabs the sheet and pulls it up to his waist.
Alex laughs, “That’s all right, honey; I’ve seen it all before.”
Walker turns a deep shade of red; “I only have your word for that.”
Alex turns Angela around in her arms and when the baby sees her daddy she begins to kick and sling her arms, overjoyed at seeing the bearded man. Even Walker can see the change in the baby when she looks at him. He swallows hard, wondering, but he doesn’t remember her, what kind of a man doesn’t remember the birth of his daughter?!
Alex hugs her daughter, “Yes, you’ve missed your daddy, haven’t you?”
“My … our … daughter?”
“Yes, she was four months old last Friday.”
“I … don’t remember her.”
“She doesn’t care … she remembers you.” She steps closer to the bed. “Would you like to hold her?” Alex asks softly, hoping the feel of Angela in his arms might prompt his memory.
“I … better not, I might drop her,” he says, although his arms are reaching out as Alex pushes Angela toward him. Her eyes mist over as she sees the tender look that settles on Walker’s face as he folds his arms around his baby daughter.
He feels a soft tug on his heart as he cuddles the small baby in his arms.
“What do you think about going home?”
“Home?” his voice holding a trace of uncertainty. “Home? Where is home?”
“Dallas. You’ll be more comfortable in familiar surroundings and it just might invoke your memory.”
He looks down at the baby in his arms. “When?” wondering what his life had been like with this woman at his side and a baby
“Soon, but first I need to get us some clothes, all we have is what we had on and those are in pretty bad shape. I need your wallet, I lost my purse in the accident,” she says as she opens the drawer in the stand at the side of the bed. “Ah, here it is,” she holds it up for him to see. “You want to see it?” She hands it to him and he shifts Angela around in his arms like a pro, and takes the wallet and begins thumbing through it. Alex moves closer and watches as he comes across the pictures of his family, the three of them together. Alex and Walker sitting side by side on the swing with Angela snuggled between them. “See, that’s us.”
He doesn’t say anything, but he is unable to pull his eyes away from the picture. Oh, God, how can I not remember my family? His head begins to pound from the strain of trying to remember. He shuts his eyes and his hold on Angela loosens as pain throbs behind his eyes, but as he feels her slipping, he tightens his hold on her
Alex, seeing the pain in his eyes, eases the baby out of his arms and the wallet from his hand, saying, “I’ll just take this and go get us some clothes.”
She turns back to Walker. “You get rested up for our trip home, okay?” She kisses him lightly on the lips and then turns and leaves the room.
She changes into the new jeans and shirt and slips on the new tennis shoes. After taking the tags off, she gathers up the clothes she had gotten for Walker and with the doctor’s permission, enters his room to get him ready to go home.
His back is hard with knots of tension and at her suggestion of a back rub; he hesitates, but then finally agrees.
“Sit down on the bed, Walker and take your shirt off.” He stretches his splinted leg out in front of him and begins to unbutton his shirt. Although she said she was his wife, he still didn’t feel right about all this intimacy. He didn’t know her!
As he works his shirt over stiff muscles, she moves around the room placing several scented candles in strategic places, and then, going into the bathroom, she dabs on his favorite perfume after slipping out of her clothes and into a short pale green thigh length sleep shirt. Gathering up the witch hazel and some fresh towels, she goes back into the bedroom.
Moving around the bed, she comes up behind him on the bed. “God, Walker, this is really a kaleidoscope of color.” The bruises of a deep purple are dissolving into a sickly yellow and violet bruises. “Don’t tense up,” she murmurs. “Just close your eyes.” Her fingers stroke and gently knead. “Let your mind wander, just let it drift.” His muscled back is beautiful, a warrior’s back, strong and male. She feels the urge to slide her lips down the length of it to nibble her way along the ridges, but it’s too soon, he isn’t ready.
At any rate, she wants to ease his pain. Then jump him.
He feels the tension leaving his body and he has a feeling he shouldn’t be letting her do this. But her hands are like heaven, soft and strong, soothing and arousing. His blood begins to warm despite his efforts to control it. But at the same time, the aches and stiffness ease, bit by bit.
The scent of the candles, the scent of her, the sound of her voice — low and soft as she speaks of little insignificant matters — relaxes him until his mind begins to drift. He feels the bed give as she moves to his side to begin working the lubricant over his ribs. Her breast brushes against his back as she presses cozily against him as she works. He wonders, dreamily, how it would feel in his hand, firm, full and smooth. How it would taste in his mouth, warm and sweet and very female.
“Lie down.” She murmurs in his ear.
She smiles, maybe he is a little too relaxed, she doesn’t want him nodding off on her. The more she touches him, she more she wants him. Desire is tightening in her belly.
“Lie down,” she repeats, and resists the urge to nip at his earlobe. She has never craved the taste of his flesh so much.
His eyes blink open, his mind tries to focus, a thought flashes in his mind that lying down is not a good idea, and starts to say so, but she is already pushing him down on his back, and it feels so good, so damn good to relax.
“I’m surprised you aren’t bruised worse than you are,” she murmurs softly.
“Yeah, well, guess it was my lucky day.” He starts to tell her that she’s done enough — God, his body is wound so tight he can barely keep his thoughts together — but when she leans over him, reaching for the bottle on the night stand, those pretty breasts block his vision and beads of sweat break out on his forehead.
“It’s a good thing you keep your body in top shape,” she says as she very carefully straddles him, keeping her weight on her knees, moving slowly in a way that makes him imagine her naked, makes him imagine being inside her.
He curls his fingers into tight fists to keep from grabbing that tight sexy bottom. “That’s enough,” he croaks.
“But I haven’t finished,” she murmurs coquettishly, keeping her eyes on his. She trails her fingers down to the elastic of his sweatpants, then up again. He feels his stomach quiver.
“Get off, you’re killing me.”
“Am I?” She shifts her weight and smiles, satisfied that her seduction is working. “I’ll just kiss it and make it better.”
Her gaze gleams under her lashes as she lowers her head, and slowly rubs her lips over his chest. She feels his heart kick against his ribs.
“Better?” She trails her lips up his throat, over his jaw and then draws back when she hears him bite off a groan.
“How do you expect me to keep my hands off of you, when you’re climbing all over me?”
“I don’t expect you to. We’re husband and wife, it’s all right,” she says as she closes her teeth lightly over his chin. “And I don’t … want you to.” She brushes her lips teasingly at the corner of his mouth. “I’m making it very clear what I want.”
“I don’t know you…”
“Oh, but you do … you know me very well.” She feels his hand grip her leg, than runs it firmly up her thigh. Triumph lights her eyes as his hand cups her, his fingers slipping between her legs, his fingers dipping inside.
She moans softly as the desire that she has been holding in check explodes. She slides her hand down between their bodies and lays it over his, holding it in place as she leans into him covering his mouth with hers.
Then, suddenly, a vivid picture of her lying beside him, asleep in his arms, flashes across his subconscious, and then, just as suddenly, changes to another, of him pulling her beneath him, driving into her. This all happens in just a blink of an eye, but although it didn’t enter his conscious thoughts, his body is already responding to her touches, the fragrance of her hair and the remembered feel of her body fitting so perfectly with his.
With desire running rampant through her body, she begins to draw his sweatpants and underwear down and he unconsciously lifts his hips to help. Taking care not to cause him pain, she eases the material over the cast on his leg and tosses the pants aside.
She looks at him in a haze of desire, her eyes taking in the thick mat of hair on his chest that thins down over his tight stomach to bloom wider again in a darker thicket between his thighs.
His legs are well muscled, but it’s the darkness between his legs that her eyes return to.
She reaches out her hand to touch him, her fingers lovingly grazing his erection and falling between his thighs. She props herself on her elbow, drawing him closer with her hand, her mouth finding him and taking pleasure from the sound of his indrawn breath.
“Oh, God …” he whispers so softly she isn’t sure he said it. His hands touch her head, her neck, her shoulder … She brings him closer, holding him, her hands on the smooth roundness of his hips. “Oh, God…”
He pulls away from her, slipping himself from between her lips with all the strength he can summon, and pushes her away from him. His body wants her, but what little sanity his mind hangs onto, tells him that this isn’t right, even if she is instigating it. He tries to sit up, but she presses against him, holding his passion dazed body against the bed. Pressing her lips against his, she knows he can taste himself on hers, making her desire him more.
He struggles briefly against the onslaught of her caresses, and then with a soft moan, he surrenders to the demands made by his body and turns the aggressor. His mouth tastes her, relishes her, and devours her, as he pulls her up his body. His lips seek out her breasts, pulling the engorged nipples deep into his mouth as his hands caress her belly, and down her hips.
Alex’s eyes close, and her lips part emitting soft moans as her body undulates against his exploring, and tantalizing fingers. She reaches down and grabs him in her palm and holds his throbbing maleness in her hand and begins to rub it against her wet, yearning body, murmuring over and over, “Love me, Walker … love me.”
He lifts her up with his powerful arms, and kisses her, letting his tongue delve deep into her open mouth. She opens herself to him, opens the pulsating emptiness and yearning inside her and settles down over him and then his thick shaft begins to push into her, the velvet tip entering slowly, ever so slowly and gently; pausing, waiting, then pushing deeper into her warm moistness.
She welcomes him, meeting each thrust with one of her own; taking him, holding him, wanting him deeper, deeper and deeper. Undulating her hips in a slow swaying circle to his demanding rhythm.
She cries out as intense waves of pleasure pushes her over the edge. He feels her tighten around him and shudders, releasing his seed deep inside her.
With his arms wrapped tightly around her, he eases her down to his side and draws her in close. He feels her soft kiss against his neck, hears a soft sigh escape her lips, then in seconds, her body goes limp as she gives in to sleep.
He lies still, remembering the hot short, lightning-swift images of her body, supple and lean, straddling him. His skin shines with perspiration and his body begins to harden again, at the thought of her, the taste of her, the pure, raw, animal she had become. They had blended well together, almost as if they were made for each other, like his body had known how to please her, had known what she needed, what she wanted, just as she seemed to have known what buttons to push to give him the ride of his life.
She whimpers softly, and he looks down at her face, soft and beautiful in sleep. Is she my wife? There had been brief flashes of her image throughout their lovemaking, but nothing clear enough or long enough that he could latch onto them.
With the image of her face in his mind, he closes his eyes and drifts off to sleep. Almost immediately he begins to dream. He’s driving and suddenly his lights shine on a tree across the road directly in front of him. A cry of a baby from the back seat cuts like a knife through his heart and he jerks awake. Lying as still as possible, not wanting to wake up the lady at his side, he slowly disentangles himself from her arms and legs and swings around to sit on the edge of the bed. He turns and watches her snuggle into his pillow, then getting the crutches from the floor; he stands, slips on his sweatpants and makes his way out of the bedroom. Standing in the foyer, without consciously thinking about it, he moves toward the front door and out onto the porch, where he sits down in the swing.
Stretching his leg out in front of him, he leans his head back and looks up at the sparkling stars that are filling the sky. Inhaling deeply of the clean country air, he listens to the night sounds and feels like he truly belongs here. He lets his eyes sweep across the lawn and down towards the fields. He thinks about the dream that woke him, the baby’s cry, when an apparition appears in the distance.
He tenses as it moves toward him, the gossamer fabric billows out around her in clouds that make it look as if she is floating and realizes that it’s the perfect image of the woman he had left asleep in bed not ten minutes ago. The woman that swears she’s his wife, and he remembers the pure ecstasy he had felt making love to her. Maybe she is his wife; she sure is consuming his mind. How else could he justify how he felt making love to her? Like his life was meaningless without her.
He can’t take his eyes off the image and feels his heart thumping loudly in his chest. He almost jumps out of his skin when he feels a hand on his shoulder, and looks up into the beautiful blue eyes of ‘his wife’.
Seeing the look on his face, “Honey, what’s wrong?”
He turns to see if the apparition is still there, but it’s gone. “Ah … a … a headache,” he mumbles, “just a headache.”
“Come inside and I’ll get you some aspirin.” She slips her hand under his arm and helps him to stand, keeping a firm grip on him as he shuffles through the doorway on his crutches.
At the kitchen table she pulls out a chair and he sits down as she moves to a cabinet and takes out a small bottle, shakes a couple of pills into her palm, and then getting a glass of water, moves over to the table. She puts the glass down in front of him and then hands him the pills.
After swallowing the pills, he sits the glass on the table and looks at her, sitting across from him, a look of worry in her eyes.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you.”
“You didn’t. You being gone, that’s what woke me. I never could sleep without you lying next to me.”
His eyes lock on hers, and suddenly he sees himself looking down into a wedding veil covered face, a face filled with love. He blinks his eyes and the image disappears.
She notices the change in his face and asks, “What is it? Did you remember something?”
“I … don’t know. Maybe, I’m … not sure.”
“Want to tell me about it?” She asks laying her hand over his.
“No … not yet. Give me some time to think about it.”
She knows better than to push him, so she decides to get his mind on something else… like eating. She stands and says, “The sun will be up shortly, how about something to eat? I can make a mean omelet.” Not waiting for him to answer, she begins to gather the ingredients.
He watches her as she moves around the kitchen, and she turns to flash a smile at him when she sees him watching her. At her look, he stands and shuffles over to the back door. His eyes wander around the yard, trying to take his mind off the woman who’s working not six feet away from him. It all looks so strange; nothing looks familiar, not the grill, or the furniture on the deck or the flower garden, but then the hammock comes into view. He remembers that hammock, remembers lying in it with a woman, with this woman. He shuts his eyes, trying to sharpen the picture in his mind.
But when Alex calls him back to the table, the image disappears. He shakes his head and turns around, glances at his ‘wife’, Is she the woman in the hammock? He sits down at the table, but all thoughts of food are gone. He needs to go somewhere to be alone. But …where?
Having known the man sitting at the table for more than nine years, she can almost read his mind. And right now his actions, playing with his food, withdrawn, tell her he wants to be alone. But he can’t go anywhere, not with his leg being broken. He can’t ride. He can’t drive. But I can. She smiles and sits down across from him and eats her breakfast, leaving him to play with his food.
She finishes eating, stands, and picks up her plate, “Are you finished?” He nods and she picks up his plate as well. She puts them in the sink and watches as he leaves the kitchen. She goes to the bedroom and slips on her jeans, shirt and pulls on her shoes. Picking up his sweatshirt, one sneaker and a sock, she goes looking for her husband. She finds him out on the porch sitting in the swing. “Why don’t you put these on,” she says, and goes back into the house.
He looks at her in confusion, but does as she asks. Pulling his sock and sneaker on, he waits for her to come back outside.
When she does, she has a duffle bag and a gunnysack. She puts them in the SUV and returns to the house for Angela, puts her in the car seat in the back seat and goes back up on the porch and takes his arm, helps him to stand and make it down the steps and into the car. She drives in silence and he doesn’t offer to talk either, until she stops the SUV in front of a small cabin.
“What’s this place?” he says as he gives the little cabin the once over.
She turns in the seat to look at him, to watch his face. “This is your Uncle Ray’s cabin. You came up here when you needed to be alone and right now I think you need time to think things through, to let your mind sort through everything that’s been thrown at you.”
He listens to what she says and then turns to look back at the cabin. Although it looks familiar, nothing comes to mind about the place. He looks back at Alex, but she has already gotten out of the car. He opens the door and swings his legs out. Struggling to his feet, he uses the door to balance himself as she gets his crutches out of the back seat.
She sees him settled in the swing on the front porch and then gets the stuff from the SUV and takes them inside and stores them away. Returning to the porch, she sits down beside him and lays her hand on his arm, “Honey, I’m not crazy about leaving you here, but knowing you, this is what you need.” Placing her hand on his chin, she turns him to face her. “Just promise me one thing. If at any time you need help, for one reason or another, you will call me, whether you remember me or not.”
“Alex … I…”
“I … all right. I guess I can do that.”
She smiles, “This is Friday, I’ll come back to pick you up on Sunday afternoon. I left enough prepared meals to get you through ‘til then.” She reaches into her pocket and pulls out her cell phone and places it in is hand. “Keep this with you at all times, in your pocket, hanging around your neck, somewhere that you can get to it easily. Promise me.”
He smiles then, “Okay, I get your point. I’ll be all right, but I’ll do as you say.”
The smile she returns is weak, and she knows she will be worried to death before she returns to get him. With fear clutching at her heart, she stands and he pulls himself up as well. She turns to leave, but looks back at Walker, and throwing her arms around his neck, kisses him soundly before going to the car and with one last scared look at him, starts the car and leaves.
Alex pulls up in front of the house, gets Angela out of the car and walks up to the door, reaches out to take the doorknob in her hand and stops. Her body sags and she leans in, letting her head rest against the door. After several minutes, she straightens and pushes open the door, then abruptly turns and walks in a ground-eating stride back towards the SUV. But before she reaches the car, she turns again and heads back toward the house. At the steps, she stops, her face showing the strain of whether she has made the right decision. She sits down on the top stair, holding Angela close to her chest. After several long minutes, she finally gets up and goes into the house.
The next morning, Alex stumbles out of bed and into the bathroom, looks into the mirror, and groans. She looks like death warmed over. She turns on the water in the shower, slips off her gown and steps underneath the water. She feels awful and looks awful, because she hadn’t gotten any sleep all night worrying about Walker.
Saturday turns out to be the longest day of her life. She stopped herself a hundred times from going after her husband. The reasons a long list running through her mind. But she does manage to resist the urge to go after him. She did sleep Saturday night, but only because of sheer exhaustion. Sunday morning finds her in a little better frame of mind, and she goes about getting Angela up, bathed and dressed with something close to joy. Today is the day her man comes home. As she dresses her daughter, a frown crosses her face, wishing that she had gotten a call telling her that he had his memory back. But then the smile is back, knowing she will see him in about five hours.
Thrilled that this is the day she will bring Walker back home, she happily fixes breakfast for her and Angela. Afterwards, she cleans up the kitchen while her daughter naps in the cradle in the front room. Wanting to have the animals taken care of before she leaves, she puts on the baby carrier, sits Angela down in it and heads for the barn.
Grabbing a pitchfork, she reaches down to plant a kiss on the top of her daughter’s head and with a song on her lips she begins the task of cleaning the stalls. It takes her most of the morning to muck out the stalls. Putting away the tools, she hums a tune as she heads for the house to get her and her daughter cleaned up before leaving to get Walker. She bathes Angela first and puts her down for a nap.
She turns the water on, pours her favorite bath soap in and while she waits for the tub to fill, she gathers up the clothes she plans on wearing to pick up Walker. Laying them on the foot of the bed, she strips out of the clothes she’s wearing and drops them in a pile as she heads back to the bathroom.
Stepping into the tub, she sighs softly as she sinks down in the water, letting the sudsy bubbles cover her like a blanket. She leans back and relaxes, letting the heat of the water ease her aching muscles. She lies submerged in the water until it begins to turn cold, then stands, closes the curtain and turns on the shower and quickly washes her hair, rinses it, and then grabs a towel and wraps it around her head, turban style. Getting a second towel off the rack, she quickly dries off and then combs out her hair.
Coming out of the bathroom, she quickly dresses and then after dressing Angela, she heads downstairs to her car. Fastening her daughter in the car seat, she notices a storm brewing in the west and hopes to get to the cabin and back before it arrives. She gets in the driver’s seat and starts the engine and, with a smile on her face, drives off to bring her husband home.
When Alex pulls up to Uncle Ray’s cabin, she gets out and scans the area for Walker. Her heart leaps into her throat with the first thought that comes to her mind. Walker is hurt! She opens the back door and gets a sleeping Angela out of the car seat, and moves toward the door to the cabin.
The door swings in when she touches the knob, fear clutches at her, as she quickly steps inside but there is no sign of Walker. Puzzled, she backs out of the house and looks toward the lake. With fear building inside her, she moves with hesitant steps, then begins to run the closer she gets. But again, there is no sign of Walker. Moving to a stump, she sits down. Tears begin to build in her eyes, as recriminations burst forth from her mouth. “I knew … I knew I shouldn’t have left him, I knew it.” Her eyes begin combing the area, “Oh, Walker, where are you? Please … please be all right.”
Just then, a movement, caught in the corner of her eye, causes her to jerk around. She stands as the figure of a man makes his way out of the trees. She swallows hard, thankful that he is all right, and instead of rushing to him, like she wants, she gives herself time to get her emotions under control.
Shifting Angela in her arms, she moves toward her husband, smiling broadly, but inwardly, she is holding her breath.
“Hi honey, are you feeling better?”
“Well, maybe a little, I…”
“You must if you went for a walk in the woods.”
“I went for a walk in the woods because I was tired of looking at those four walls.”
“Did it help any to get away by yourself?”
“I don’t know if it helped, but it didn’t hurt.”
“Well, we’d better get things together, it looks like a storm is coming and I’d like to get back before it hits.” He looks at her for several minutes, but makes no comment.
Alex feels frustrated, not understanding the way he is looking at her, or his attitude, which has changed from guarded to more confident. She watches him shuffle toward the cabin, then follows, trying to pinpoint the difference in his actions. He pushes the door open and steps inside. Alex follows him still perplexed with his behavior.
She lays Angela down on the bed and puts pillows on both sides to keep her from rolling off, then turns to face Walker.
“Will you tell me what’s going on? Have you gotten your memory back?”
He looks at her, his face a blank, “I…” The sudden squall from Angela interrupts his answer. He turns to look at the baby, at Alex, then back at the baby.
Alex turns and goes out the door, returning shortly with the diaper bag. But the changing of the diaper doesn’t stop the yowling, so the next step is to feed her. She picks Angela up and sits down in the small rocker next to the fireplace. Unbuttoning her blouse, she shifts the crying baby against her breast and the cries change to soft murmurs of contentment.
Alex looks up and sees Walker packing his stuff into the same duffle bag that was used to bring them. “Walker, what are you doing?”
“Packing my clothes, you did come here to take me back home, didn’t you?”
“Ah … yes, I did, I just didn’t think you’d be so eager.”
He turns his back to her, while he tosses a shirt into the duffle bag, “Well, I’m tired of my own cooking.”
Alex takes a deep breath, glad that she won’t have to coerce him into going back. She switches Angela to the other breast and leans back, relaxing as she enjoys the togetherness with her baby.
A noise, a movement, makes her open her eyes, but Walker still has his back to her.
“Walker…” she murmurs softly.
He turns and looks at her like he used to, but then it disappears just as fast. Like an image had poked a hole in the fog surrounding his mind, but then in an instant it closes over.
Alex feels the tears build up in her eyes, knowing that she just has to wait, which is getting harder every day.
Angela’s lips relax and the nipple she had been getting her substance from, slips from her mouth. After putting her clothes back in order, Alex gets up and lays her down on the bed.
She helps Walker pack the rest of the stuff and carries it out to the SUV. Coming back into the cabin, she sees her husband looking down at his daughter.
“She looks like you. She’s going to be a beautiful lady when she grows up.” Then he turns and hobbles out the door and gets into the SUV.
She is so disappointed that she feels like crying, but with a swipe at her eyes and a stiffening of her spine, she moves around the car, gets in, starts the engine, and puts it in gear, never looking at Walker.
As they leave the cabin, the storm that has been brewing finally breaks loose, starting with a light rain and gradually coming down harder. She tries to start a conversation on the ride back to the ranch house, but his answers are terse and his manner is detached as if his mind is somewhere else.
A loud burst of thunder startles her and the rain comes down in sheets, making it hard to see the road. She begins to tremble, remembering the accident and going off the road. “I … I need to stop, but I can’t tell where the road is! Oh, God!”
Walker turns toward her, “Take it easy, Alex, you’re doing fine. But you can’t stop, you could be rammed from the rear.”
“But … I can’t see … God … I can’t do this!”
His voice rises to get through her hysteria, “Yes, you can, honey, just concentrate on driving. You can do it. You’ll get us through. I love you, Alex; I know you can do this!”
Alex creeps along, her eyes glued to what she can see of the road and gradually the rain begins to lessen until it is a light sprinkle. She sighs deeply, glances at Walker, “We made it.”
“I knew you could do it honey. I had faith in you.”
Alex turns for a quick look into the back seat at Angela, who has slept through it all, then suddenly she realizes what Walker had said to her and she snaps her head around to look at him. “Walker … you … said you love me. Was that just for support or do you remember?”
His eyes gleaming with his love, “What do you think?”
“It all came rushing back when we got caught in that heavy downpour. I remember it all, everything, the accident, too. Well… most of it, anyway. I remember the tree across the road, but that’s all until I woke up in the hospital.”
Alex pulls into the drive and stops in front of the house, releases the seat belt and throws herself into her husband’s arms Raining kisses all over his face, “I’m so glad to have you back. It was like having a stranger take over your body.”
“Oh, is that so? You mean to tell me that you enjoyed making love to a stranger?” he says, pulling her onto his lap.
She looks at him with solemn tenderness, “Now, that’s where you were like yourself. You made love to me like you knew exactly who I was; like you always have.”
“That’s because I could never forget your body, honey.”
“I’m glad, honey, so glad.”