WALKER’S RETURN

By Chris (ckline-usa@foreverliving.com)

& Sissy (sissy@svs.net)

 

 

Alex awakes to the sound of the alarm ringing in her head.  As she rolls to her side and slaps the snooze button on the clock, she thinks again how much she hates mornings!  Rolling back, something catches her eye-a beautiful long-stemmed red rose is resting on the pillow next to her.  She rubs her eyes knowing she must be dreaming but when she opens her eyes again, the rose is still there.  She quickly sits up in bed and looks all around the room.  Everything looks the same as it did when she went to bed.  She looks at the rose again and sees a small card lying next to it.  Reaching for the card, she gasps as she recognizes the handwriting-his handwriting!  The card reads:  “I never meant to hurt you.  I’m sorry.”  Tears immediately spring to her eyes.  ‘He’s back,’ she thinks.

 

“Walker?”, she calls out, but no one responds.  Now wide-awake, she jumps out of bed and grabs her robe.  She searches the apartment but finds nothing.  Disappointed and near tears again, she sits on the couch and wonders how he could have placed the rose on her pillow.  Getting into the apartment was no problem since he has a key.  He is probably the quietest person Alex has ever met but this was ridiculous.  How could someone come into her bedroom and place a rose on her pillow without her waking up?  Especially considering that she hadn’t been sleeping very well for the last two months.

 

She picks up the phone and dials Walker’s ranch.  If he has returned, he must be at home.  The phone rings several times before a groggy voice answers, “Hello.”

 

“Jimmy?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“It’s Alex.  Is Walker there?”

 

“Walker?  Alex, what are you talking about?”

 

“Walker, is he there?”

 

“Counselor, you know the answer to that as well as I do.  Are you all right?”

 

“Yes-No!  Jimmy, Walker’s back.”

 

Now also wide-awake, Trivette replies “Are you sure?  What makes you think so?”

 

“I found a rose on my pillow this morning with a note from him.  He was obviously here sometime during the night so I thought he would naturally go to the ranch.”

 

“Well, if he’s here, I haven’t seen or heard him.  I’ll get up and check around, though, and call you back.”

 

“Okay.”

 

As Trivette hangs up the phone, he thinks, “Walker’s back!”  With a smile on his face and renewed energy, he jumps out of bed and goes in search of his partner.

 

******

 

Alex decides to get some juice and take a shower while she waits for Trivette to call her back.  She walks into the kitchen and opens the refrigerator.  She takes in a quick breath when she sees another rose carefully placed on the top shelf of the refrigerator.  Gently she picks up the rose and holds it to her nose.  It smells wonderful.  She shakes her head and smiles at the thought of Walker tiptoeing around her apartment to place the flowers.

 

She places the two roses in a vase on the dining room table, pours herself a glass of juice and heads for the shower.  She pulls back the shower curtain to find yet another red rose poised on the shower caddy, which holds her soap, shampoo and razor.  She picks up the rose and stares at it thinking, ‘Oh, Walker, where are you?  Why didn’t you wake me?’  She walks to the dining room, adds the rose to the vase and returns to the bathroom.

 

Just as she turns off the shower, she hears the phone ringing.  She quickly wraps a towel around herself and rushes into the bedroom to answer it.

 

“Walker?!”

 

“Sorry, Alex, it’s just me,” replies Trivette.

 

“Oh, hi Jimmy,” she replies, her disappointment very evident.  “Did you find him?”

 

“Well, he was here all right, but he’s gone now.  He apparently slept in the loft in the barn because there are blankets and a pillow laid out and Amigo and Angel have already been tended to.  I’m going to grab a shower and head for the office.  Maybe he’s gone there.  What I don’t understand is why he’s being so mysterious.”

 

Alex replies, “Well, given how he left and how long he’s been gone, I think he’s afraid of how we’ll respond to him coming home.  The note he left me said ‘I never meant to hurt you.  I’m sorry.’  Oh, Jimmy, doesn’t he realize that it doesn’t matter why he did what he did, we just want him home where he belongs.”

 

“Well, Alex, something tells me we’re in for an interesting day today.  What’s your schedule look like?”

 

“It’s actually really light today.  I have meeting at the office at 10:00 and a pretrial hearing at noon, but then I’m free.  Maybe we can meet at C.D.’s after my hearing and the three of us can try to figure out what’s going on.”

 

“Okay, I’ll see you at the office.”

 

“Okay, bye Jimmy.”

 

******

 

An hour later, Alex is heading out the door for the office, briefcase and coffee in hand.  She approaches her car and realizes that she forgot to lock it when she came home last night.  ‘Real smart, Alex,’ she thinks.  She opens the door, places her briefcase in the back seat and climbs in still holding her coffee.  As she goes to place her coffee in the cup holder, she notices it.  Another red rose on the passenger seat of her car with a small note attached.  She picks up the note, which reads, “I’ve missed you.  P.S. You really shouldn’t leave your car unlocked at night, Alex.”

 

Again, she blinks back the tears that are threatening to wash down her cheeks.  ‘Oh, Walker, I’ve missed you too’, she thinks.  She looks around the parking area in hopes that he is still near but knows that it’s useless.  He won’t reveal himself until he’s ready.  Placing the rose back on the seat, she starts the car and heads toward the office.

 

******

 

As Alex steps off the elevator, she sees Trivette waiting for her down the hall.

 

Hurrying toward him, she calls out, “Jimmy, any luck?”

 

“Sorry, Alex.  No sign of him at Ranger Headquarters.  I talked to the secretary and everyone who was around last night and no one saw him.  I guess that doesn’t surprise me, though.  He can be invisible when he wants to be.”

 

“Well, I guess we’re just going to have to go along with whatever game Walker is playing.”

 

“Yeah, I guess you’re right.  How long will your pretrial hearing take?  Do you want to meet me at C.D.’s say around 2:00?”

 

“The hearing shouldn’t take more than an hour, but I’ll need to come back here and drop everything off so 2:00 sounds good.”

 

“Okay, hang in there Counselor, we’ll figure this thing out.  See ya later.”

 

“Thanks, Jimmy.  I’ll see you at C.D.’s.”

 

******

 

Alex walks to her office and greets her secretary, Jessica.

 

“Good Morning, Ms. Cahill.”

 

“Good Morning, Jessica.”

 

“Don’t forget your meeting with the District Attorney at 10:00 and you have a pretrial hearing at noon.”

 

“Yes, I know, thank you.  I need to review some notes for my 10:00 meeting so please hold all my calls, except Ranger Trivette.”

 

“Yes, ma’am.”

 

As Alex opens the door to her office, her eyes grow wide as saucers and she gasps, not believing what’s she seeing.

 

“Ms. Cahill, are you all right?”

 

Still stunned, Alex replies, “Huh…Oh, yes, I’m fine.  Jessica, has anyone been here to see me this morning?”

 

“No, ma’am, not since I’ve been here.  Is everything all right?”

 

Alex smiles, “Yes, everything’s fine or at least it will be soon, I hope.”

 

Alex turns back and enters her office and closes the door.  There, on her desk, is a beautiful vase filled with red roses.  A small card is perched among the blossoms.

 

Alex places her briefcase on the chair and reaches for the card.  Walking to sit down behind her desk, she opens the card, reading, “I love you, Alex.”

 

‘Oh, Walker’, she sighs.  Sitting back in her chair and staring at the flowers in front of her, Alex recalls the events of two months earlier.

 

******

 

Walker had insisted that Alex come to stay at the ranch after her near fatal shooting at the hands of Karl Storm.  Alex had only been home a few days when she started to notice the change in Walker.  Prior to the wedding and the shooting, she and Walker had become extremely close and then, at the wedding, Walker had said that there was something he had wanted to ask her after the ceremony.  That, of course, never took place due to the shooting.  She had hoped that once she recovered, Walker would ask her the question, but this never happened.  He was very attentive to her every need but every time she mentioned the wedding, he changed the subject.  Once she had been released from the hospital and was at the ranch, she had thought about asking Walker what it was that he had wanted to ask but there never seemed to be a time when they were alone long enough to talk.

 

Alex grew stronger each day with Walker’s assistance.  He worked with her on her therapy, made sure she was eating properly and getting enough rest, but as each day passed, Alex noticed that Walker became more and more withdrawn.  He barely touched her now and he hadn’t kissed her in weeks.  She tried several times to get him to open up and tell her what was bothering him, but he always found a way to sidestep the subject or, if necessary, avoid her!

 

Then one morning, her world fell apart.  She awoke to find a note on her pillow:

 

Alex,

 

I know that I am hurting you and that is the last thing I want to do.  I know that we need to talk but I just can’t right now.  You mean everything to me and I just can’t bear the thought of losing you.  I know that I am being irrational, but please try to understand.  I need to sort out my emotions and try to come to terms with what has happened over the last several weeks.  I will make you this promise-I will be back.  I don’t know when, but I will come back to you and I can only hope that you can find it in your heart at that time to forgive me.  If you can’t, I will understand. 

 

I have made arrangements to have the ranch and the horses looked after so you needn’t worry about that.  I would appreciate it if you can explain to Trivette and C.D. and ask if they wouldn’t mind dropping in from time to time to make sure everything is going okay.  You are welcome to stay here as long as you like.  This is your home, too!

 

Please know that I will always love you.

 

                                                                                                Walker

 

Alex was devastated.  She had called Jimmy and C.D. and both had come immediately to the ranch.  C.D. had tried to explain to her how Walker’s mind worked but even he was having a hard time understanding Walker’s thinking this time.

 

Alex had stayed at the ranch for another week.  She had wanted to be there when Walker returned, but it soon became too difficult for her.  Everywhere she looked, she saw images that reminded her of Walker and the tears would start again.  She finally decided that she needed to move back to her apartment, get back to work and try to get on with her life.  Walker was never far from her thoughts and she desperately hoped that he would come home soon.  As the weeks went on, Alex wondered if she would ever see her cowboy again.  He had promised, though, and Alex knew that Walker would never break a promise, especially to her.  She just prayed that he would find the answers he was looking for and would come back to her.

 

******

 

The sound of Jessica’s voice over the intercom brought Alex back to reality.  She looked at the clock and realized that she had been daydreaming for over an hour.  She now had less than 40 minutes to prepare for her meeting with the District Attorney.  She also noticed that she had again been crying.  ‘I seem to be doing this a lot these last couple of months’, she thought.

 

“Miss Cahill, Ranger Trivette is here to see you.”

 

“Okay, Jessica, send him in,” said Alex as she reached for a tissue to dry her eyes.

 

Jimmy entered the office and, immediately noticing the roses, looked at Alex with a raised eyebrow.  “Walker?” he said.  She nodded.

 

Jimmy chuckled, “Well, I guess we can’t tease him about not knowing the price of roses any more, now can we?”

 

Alex smiled as she continued to dab at her eyes with a tissue.

 

Trivette, noticing that Alex had been crying, approached her desk and knelt on the floor beside her chair.  He placed his arm on her shoulder and looked her in the eye.  "Hey, Alex, you okay?”

 

“Yes, Jimmy, I’m okay.  I was just thinking about when this all started two months ago.  I wish he would come and talk to me.  I mean, I love all the flowers and the mystery, but now I just want to be back in his arms, you know?”

 

“Yeah, I know, Alex.  But don’t worry, I know my partner pretty well and I think all these flowers are leading somewhere.  I’m sure he’ll show up soon.”

 

“I hope so.  Thanks, Jimmy.  You’ve been such a good friend through all of this.  I don’t know what I would have done with out you and C.D. these past two months.”

 

“Hey, no problem.  Isn’t that what friends are for?”  He stands and starts for the door.

 

“Jimmy, did you need to see me about something when you came in?”

 

“No, just wanted to see how you were holding up.  I’ll see you at C.D.’s around 2:00.  Maybe Big Dog can come up with a few places we haven’t looked yet.”

 

“Okay.”

 

As Jimmy leaves, Alex gets back to her notes and tries to prepare for her meeting, which is now 30 minutes away.

 

******

 

Arriving at C.D.’s shortly before 2:00, Alex notices Jimmy’s car in the parking lot.  She parks next to him and heads for the door.

 

As she enters, she sees Jimmy and C.D. chatting at the bar.  She approaches placing an arm on Trivette’s shoulder.

 

“Hi, guys!”

 

“Hey, Alex,” says Trivette.

 

“Hi, honey.  You doin’ all right darlin’?” says C.D.

 

“Yes, C.D., I’m okay.  Anything new?”

 

C.D. and Trivette exchange a nervous look, a look which does not go unnoticed by Alex.

 

“Okay, guys, out with it.  What’s going on?”

 

C.D. points toward the back of the bar and as Alex’s eyes follow his finger, she sees it.  Another dozen beautiful, long-stemmed, red roses in a vase sitting on the table at the booth that she and Walker normally share.

 

“I don’t believe this!  Another one!”

 

Trivette says, “Yeah.  Guess he really knows the price of roses, now!”

 

“There’s a note with it, honey,” says C.D.

 

Alex walks over to the booth, lowers her head and breathes in the sweet fragrance of the flowers.  She then gently removes the note, which had been carefully placed in the middle of the bouquet.  She sits down in the booth and with shaky hands, opens the letter.

 

My dearest Alex,

 

            By now, it’s obvious that I’ve come home.  I hope you liked the roses.  You’ll never again be able to say that I don’t know the price of roses! 

 

I am sorry that I have been away for so long and I only hope that you can find some way to forgive me, both for leaving and for the way in which I left.  I realize now that I should have talked to you in the beginning and not run away, but burying my feelings is something that I have done for so long that it’s a difficult habit to break.  I have missed you so much these last two months but I promised myself that I wouldn’t come back until I was ready to give you everything that you deserve.  I’m ready to do that now, if you’ll have me.

 

            Will you please do me the honor of joining me for dinner this evening out at the ranch around 6:00?  I thought we could watch the sunset before dinner.

 

            I love you, Alex and hope I see you this evening.

 

                                                                                    Walker

 

P.S.  Tell Trivette and C.D. that we’ll meet them at C.D.’s for breakfast in the morning.  I want tonight to be just you and me!

 

C.D. had come around the bar and was sitting next to Trivette.  Both had watched Alex carefully as she read the letter, seeing her laugh and then watching as the tears flowed down her cheeks and finally seeing her nod her head as if answering a question.  Both were dying to know what the letter said but both also understood Alex’s need for privacy.

 

Alex folded the letter and placed it back in the envelope.  She then placed the envelope in her purse and at the same time removed a tissue to dry her eyes.  She couldn’t believe what she had just read.  The pure emotion revealed in that letter was unlike anything she had ever read and the most amazing part was that Walker had written it!  She wondered exactly where he had gone and what had happened over these last two months to cause such a dramatic change in him.  ‘Well,’ she thought, ‘guess I’ll find out tonight.’

 

She finished drying her eyes and rose to return to the bar to let Jimmy and C.D. know what was happening.  As she approached, Jimmy said, “Everything okay, Alex?”

 

Coming to stand between the two men and with the brightest smile that Jimmy and C.D. had seen from her in the last two months, Alex replied, “Yes, Jimmy, everything’s going to be fine.  Walker has invited me to dinner at the ranch tonight-just the two of us.  He said to tell you both that we would see you here tomorrow morning for breakfast.”

 

“Honey, that is great news!  I’m so glad Cordell finally came to his senses” shouted C.D.

 

“Absolutely!” replies Trivette.

 

“Well, I better get going.  I have a few errands that I need to run before I head out to Walker’s.  I can’t believe this-I’m as nervous as a schoolgirl on her first date!”

 

Trivette laughs, “Don’t worry, Counselor, I guarantee that my partner is even more nervous than you are!  I’m sure everything will be fine.  You two just need time together.  We’ll see you tomorrow morning.”

 

“That’s right, darlin’.  You listen to Jimmy.  Tell Cordell ‘welcome home’ from us and we’ll see you both in the morning.”

 

Putting an arm on the shoulder of each of them, Alex leans down and kisses each man on the cheek.  “How can I ever thank you two?  I never could have made it through these last two months if it hadn’t been for your love and support.  I love you both.”  With that said, Alex disappears out the door.

 

******

 

As Alex drove up the driveway toward the ranch, her stomach was full of butterflies and her hands were shaking.  ‘I’ve got to get a hold of myself,’ she thought.

 

She pulled up in front of the house and smiled at the sight of Walker’s silver Ram parked near the barn.  God, how she had missed him!

 

She got out of the car and as she walked up the front steps, she noticed that the house seemed rather dark.  As she approached the door, she noticed a small note, “Come on in, Alex.”  She reached for the doorknob and slowly turning the handle, pushed the door open and stepped into the entryway.  “Walker?” she called.  But there was no answer.

 

She noticed a light on in the guest bedroom and approached the door.  Taped to the door was another note.  “Your evening begins here.”  Unsure exactly how to interpret the message, Alex cautiously peeked into the room.  Her smile grew as she saw what had been placed on the bed.

 

She entered the room, closing the door behind her.  There, on the bed, Walker had placed her red formal dress.  It was one of her favorites and she knew that it was absolutely Walker’s favorite.  It was a full length red sequin halter dress with a V-neck front cut just low enough and an open back down to the waist.  She sat on the bed and lightly ran her hand over the dress, remembering the first time she had worn it.

 

It had been several years earlier.  She and Walker had been invited to attend the Governor’s Gala and she had bought this dress especially for the event.  At the last minute, Walker and Trivette had been asked to double check security at the Governor’s mansion where the party would be held, making it necessary for Walker and Trivette to arrive about an hour before the other guests.  Since Trivette knew that Walker would want to take her home after the party, he had graciously offered to pick up Walker at Alex’s apartment and drive him to the Governor’s mansion.  Alex then followed in her car, arriving with the other guests.

 

She had entered the Governor’s mansion and immediately began looking for Walker and Trivette.  After a few minutes, she noticed them standing near a window, drinking a soda and chatting with each other.  Seconds later, a beautiful, young black woman approached Jimmy and led him toward the dance floor, leaving Walker standing alone.  Alex marveled at how wonderful Walker looked in a tuxedo.  She knew how much he hated wearing one, but he had no idea how incredible he looked.

 

As if sensing her presence, he had turned to look in her direction and when he had seen her, his reaction had been immediate and dramatic.  His eyes had grown wide and he had nearly choked on his drink.  There was no doubt that he had noticed her!  She smiled on the outside but was giggling on the inside as she approached him.  Recovering quickly, Walker had set his drink on the window ledge, taken her hands in his and leaned to kiss her cheek.  As he did, he whispered just loud enough that only she could hear him “You look beautiful!”  The words warmed her heart now as much as they had then for that was one of the first times Walker had said anything like that to her.

 

She had thanked him and told him that he didn’t look so bad himself.  That evening had been enchanting.  They had danced and laughed and spent nearly the entire evening in each other’s arms.  Both were disappointed when the party ended.  When they had reached her apartment door that night, Alex had invited Walker to come in for coffee, not quite ready to let him go.  He had declined her invitation that evening and she was pretty sure that she knew why!

 

There had been several other occasions subsequent to that evening that they had gone to a function where Alex had worn that dress and each time, Walker’s reaction had been the same.

 

As she came back to reality, she noticed a small note next to the dress, which said, “It would please me very much to see you wear this.  Everything you need (I hope) is in the top dresser drawer.  Meet me on the back porch when you’re ready.”

 

Alex went to the dresser and opened the top drawer.  It indeed held everything she needed, everything, that is, except shoes!  ‘He wouldn’t have forgotten the shoes, would he?” thought Alex.  She walked over to the closet and opened the door.  There on the floor were her black patent leather sling back sandals.  ‘I can’t believe he remembered what shoes I wear with that dress!” she thought.  Removing the shoes and closing the door, she walked to the bed to get changed.

 

A few minutes later, Alex was looking at herself in the mirror, brushing her hair.  She really loved the way she looked in this dress.  The only thing she wished is that she had something to put her hair up with.  She always like to wear her hair up when she wore this dress.  Searching through her purse, she found a clip that she had forgotten to remove.  Using the clip, she twisted her hair into a French knot and pulled a few wisps of hair down around her face.

 

Looking in the mirror again, she thought, “Okay, Cahill, are you ready for this?”  Taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly to calm her nerves, she reached for the door and headed out of the room.

 

As she approached the back of the house, she could hear country music playing.  Stepping out onto the porch, she noticed a small table with two candles burning brightly.  “Walker?” she said.  But there was no reply.

 

She walked to the railing to see if she could see him anywhere near.  She didn’t see him, but what she did see was one of the most beautiful sunsets ever.  As she gazed out into the approaching evening, she said, “It’s so beautiful.”  She froze when a voice behind her replied “Yes, it is and so are you.”  The sound of his voice was like velvet caressing her skin.  She turned to find Walker standing a few feet away dressed in a black tuxedo and wearing a huge smile.

 

She stared at him; he looked wonderful-relaxed and completely at ease.  She also noticed that he had been doing some serious working out while he has away.  His body looked in perfect condition.  His hair was slightly longer too.  She slowly approached him and, reaching out, placed her hand against the side of his face, stroking his beard, “Walker, is that really you?”

 

Reaching up and placing his hand over hers, he replied, “Yes, Alex, it’s really me.”

 

Within seconds his arms wrapped around her waist and pulled her into his embrace.  Her arms immediately went around his neck and she hugged him tightly as the tears began to fall from both their eyes.  They remained locked together for several minutes, neither wanting to let the moment end.  They were both back where they belonged.

 

Finally, they parted just enough to look into each other’s eyes.  What each saw reflected was all the happiness, love and desire that had been missing from their lives for the past two months.  Never taking his eyes from hers, Walker began to speak.  “Alex, I’m…” but she stopped him, placing a finger on his lips and saying “Shhh…we can talk later.  Right now just kiss me.”

 

He smiled, “Well, I never was very good at saying ‘no’ to you.”  He dipped his head and began kissing her, tenderly at first and then more urgently as his passion grew.  His hands began to gently caress her back.  The feeling was incredible and her body began to react.  Walker had kissed her a thousand times before, but no kiss ever felt like this.  It spoke to her in ways that words never could and conveyed to her his deepest emotions. 

 

Knowing that if he didn’t stop now, he wouldn’t be able to, Walker reluctantly released her lips and again stared into the deep blue eyes of the woman he loved more than life itself.  His hand softly touched her cheek, his thumb gently brushing away her tears.  He brought her to stand beside him and, wrapping his arm tightly around her waist, pulled her close.  She placed her arm around his waist and rested her head on his shoulder and together they watched as the sun silently slipped below the horizon coloring the sky the most beautiful shade of red.

 

“You hungry?” he asked, gently kissing the top of her head.

 

She looked up at him with the devil in her eye and said, “What did you have in mind?”

 

Seeing the desire in her eyes, he smiled.  “Dinner-for now.”

 

He took her hand in his and led her back inside the house.  The dining room was awash in beautiful candlelight and there was a bottle of champagne chilling beside the table.  He held her chair for her and once she was seated, disappeared into the kitchen to retrieve their meals.  Dinner was eaten in silence, each staring at the other every few minutes trying to convince themselves that this was real, and each blushing when caught in the act by the other.  There was so much that they needed to talk about, but there would be plenty of time for that later.  Right now, what they wanted, what they needed, was simply to enjoy each other’s company.

 

As they finished dinner, Walker rose from his chair, took Alex’s hand in his and led her to the living room.  He turned to face her and gave her a small kiss.  “I thought I’d make a fire and we can talk.”

 

She returned his kiss.  “I’d like that, but would you mind terribly if I changed into something a little more comfortable?  Sitting in front of a fire in this dress isn’t going to be easy.”

 

He chuckled and said, “Actually, I was hoping you were going to say that.  I’m not sure how much longer I’ll last in this monkey suit!”

 

Alex laughed.  “I’ll be right back.”

 

As she started to move past him, Walker grabbed her hand and said, “Alex, there’s a gift for you in the bottom drawer of the dresser, but you don’t have to wear it if you don’t want to.”

 

“Okay,” she smiled as she walked toward the guest room.

 

Closing the door behind her, she leaned heavily against it trying to catch her breath.  Walker had always affected her physically, but this, this was like nothing she had ever experienced.  Her mind was reeling and her body was aching for him.  There was something different about him.  He seemed so relaxed and comfortable.  Completely as ease.   There was something different about his eyes, too.  An inner peace that she had never noticed before.  Whatever he had experienced while he was away had apparently affected him profoundly.

 

Opening the bottom drawer of the dresser, she took out the carefully wrapped package and opened it.  Inside was a stunning silk negligee and robe.  The negligee was short, ending about mid thigh.  It had a v-neck front with lace just above the breasts.  The back was open to the waist with spaghetti straps that crossed down the back.  The matching robe was simple but elegant, barely reaching her knees.  Both were a beautiful shade of deep burgundy.  At first, Alex was unsure if wearing this was a good idea.  They really needed to talk and somehow this outfit did not seem conducive to talking!  It was beautiful, though, and she loved the feel of silk against her skin.

 

She changed into the negligee and robe, opting to leave her hair up, and returned to the living room to find a roaring fire in the fireplace, a blanket and pillows on the floor in front of it and two glasses of champagne placed in the middle of the blanket.  The music that had been playing on the back porch now played softly in the living room.  She looked around for Walker but did not see him.

 

Walker had started a fire and then gone to his room to change.  He was glad to be out of that tux but it had been worth it to see the look on Alex’s face when she had turned to find him standing behind her.  She always seemed to like seeing him in a tuxedo.  He was so thankful that she had accepted his invitation for dinner.  There was so much he needed to say to her, so much he needed to explain.  He changed into a pair of black, loose-fitting cotton sweatpants that he normally wore when working out.  They were very comfortable and he knew the fire would be warm.  He opted to go without a shirt, knowing how much Alex liked it when he did.

 

As he reached the top of the steps, he saw Alex emerge from the guest room.  The sight of her took his breath away.  She was wearing the gift that he had bought her and she looked absolutely gorgeous.  He quietly descended the stairs and followed her into the living room.

 

He stopped in the doorway, admiring her beauty for a few seconds before moving quietly to stand behind her, gently slipping his arms around her slender waist and pulling her close to him.  At first she tensed, startled by his approach, but as soon as his arms encircled her waist, she relaxed completely and leaned back against him.

 

Kissing her bare neck, he whispered “I’ve missed you so much.”

 

Turning within his grasp, his bare chest did not go unnoticed.  She couldn’t take her eyes from it.  She placed her hands against it, caressing the soft hair and marveling at the contour of his well-defined muscles.  He really had been working out and he looked and felt magnificent!  Slowly sliding her hands up around his neck and, running her fingers through his hair, she looked up at him and kissed him lightly.  “I’ve missed you too, darling.” 

 

Never taking his eyes from hers, Walker slowly moved his hand up to her hair, removed her hair clip and watched her golden curls fall to her shoulders.  He then slid his hand to the back of her neck, pulled her close and kissed her deeply.  Releasing her, but watching her closely for any sign that he was making her uncomfortable, he moved his hands to untie her robe and gently slip it from her shoulders, allowing it to float gracefully to the floor.  “You are so beautiful.”  Taking her hand, he led her toward the blanket.

 

Settling themselves on the blanket in front of the fire, Walker and Alex spend the next hour silently snuggled together sipping champagne and enjoying the warmth of the fire and each other.

 

It was Alex who finally broke the silence, “Walker?”

 

“Uh huh.”

 

“Where did you go when you left?”

 

Sitting up to face her and crossing his legs, Walker reaches out and moves a stray strand of hair from her eyes, “Does this mean you’re ready to talk now?”

 

Alex sits up and faces him, taking both of his hands in hers.  “Yes, I am.”

 

Walker closed his eyes and took a deep, cleansing breath.  “I went to the reservation.”

 

Alex looked at him, confused, “But Jimmy called there looking for you just a few days after you had left and no one had seen you.”

 

“No one knew I was there.  No one, that is, except White Eagle.  I went to Uncle Ray’s old cabin to try to sort things out but when I arrived, I found White Eagle waiting for me.”

 

“How did he know you were coming?”

 

“He said the spirits told him.”

 

“What did you need to sort out?  Us?”

 

“Yes, in a way, but there was more.  When you were shot, I thought my world was coming to an end.  The look on your face in that instant, the shock, the fear, ripped me to my very soul.  I couldn’t get the image from my mind.  Every time I closed my eyes, the scene replayed and the result was always the same.  I couldn’t figure out why I hadn’t been able to protect you.  My Cherokee instincts, as Trivette calls them, had failed me for the first time in my life and I couldn’t understand why.  Why hadn’t I known there was one more shooter?  Why didn’t I sense the presence of danger?  Had I lost my edge?  Even after Karl Storm was dead and I knew you would be all right, I couldn’t seem to get past the overwhelming sense that I had failed you.  I thought when I saw you and talked to you, everything would be okay.  It wasn’t.  I couldn’t sleep.  I didn’t want to eat.  I knew I was losing it, but I couldn’t seem to find a way back.  Then the nightmares started.  The images of everyone I had ever loved and lost came back to haunt me.  Images of my parents being shot, of Aimee making me choose between her and the Rangers, of Ellen, of Logan lying dead on the ground, of Lucas and then finally of you reaching for me and falling lifelessly into my arms.  I tried to get past it, to tell myself that everything would be all right as soon as you came home from the hospital.  But I was wrong.

 

I wanted you here at the ranch, wanted to help you heal, help us both heal, but once you arrived, all I could think about was how to protect you if something like this happened again.  My instincts had failed me once, would they fail me again?  As the days went by, I became more and more withdrawn.  Finally, one night, the night I left, I was sitting out on the porch looking at the stars when I knew that I needed help.  I knew I was hurting you by pushing you away but I couldn’t stop myself.  I stood in your room watching you sleep for the longest time, trying to get the courage to wake you and tell you I had to leave but I couldn’t bear the thought of seeing the hurt that I knew would be in your eyes.  That’s why I took the easy way out and wrote you the note.  I’m so sorry, Alex, I know that I should have had faith in you, faith in us, and talked to you about how I was feeling, but by this time, I just wasn’t thinking clearly.”

 

Alex had listened as Walker bared his soul.  She couldn’t believe that this was the same man-the man who always avoided talking about his feelings.  Walker had never before opened up to her so fully, so completely.  Even when she had forced him to talk about things that made him uncomfortable, she always sensed that he was holding something back.  She didn’t get that feeling tonight.  He was a changed man.

 

“I’m so sorry, Walker.  I had no idea what you were going through.  I knew something was wrong, we all did, but I couldn’t seem to get you to open up to me.  That night that you left, I had expressed my fears to Jimmy and C.D. and they had planned to take you riding the next day to see if they could get you to open up to them.  Then, when I woke up that morning and you were gone, I thought I’d lost you forever.  I clung to the promise you made to come back, knowing you would never break a promise to me, but the longer you were gone, the more I felt that you would never come home.”

 

Cupping her face with his hand and wiping away tears she hadn’t realized she had shed, Walker replied “I know Alex, it’s okay.  I thought that if I got away from everything, I’d be able to sort it all out in a few days but it didn’t work out like that.  As I said, when I arrived at Uncle Ray’s cabin, White Eagle was waiting for me.  He said that the spirits had told him of a troubled soul in need of his help and guidance and had led him to the cabin.  He said that he always knew that the day would come when I would have to finally face the demons.”

 

“What demons?”

 

“The demons of my past.  You see, when I witnessed my parents’ murder, I was so devastated by the event that I built a wall within my mind and locked the feelings away so that I didn’t have to deal with the pain.  I became detached.  Then, whenever a tragic event occurred in my life, instead of dealing with the pain, I would lock it away behind that wall.  White Eagle knew that eventually the time would come when I could no longer hide from the pain.  Apparently, the shooting at the wedding was the trigger."

 

“But why were you gone for so long?” Alex asked.

 

“White Eagle had told me that the journey back would be a difficult one, but I had no idea how difficult.  It took nearly three weeks of meditation and trips to the sweat lodge for White Eagle to finally break through the wall I had erected.  When it finally came down, it took me another week to work through all the pain.  It was only after that that the healing could begin.  For the first time since I was twelve years old, I cried.  Cried for my parents, for Ellen, for Logan, for Lucas and for you.  Everyone I had ever loved had been brutally ripped away from me, except you.  You were still alive.  I was being given a second chance and I was determined to do whatever it took to get back to you.  With White Eagle’s help, I finally faced the demons and dealt with the pain.  However, those four weeks took quite a toll on me physically.  I hadn’t eaten very much nor had I slept very well.  I’d lost almost 15 pounds and probably looked like death warmed over.  I knew I couldn’t come back to you in that condition so I spent the next month healing the emotional wounds and recovering physically.  I felt such a renewed energy and excitement about life.  For the first time since I was a child, I wasn’t afraid to face my emotions.  I couldn’t wait to get back home to see you again, to tell you how much I love you and need you in my life.  I know that there is nothing that can happen that we can’t get through as long as we’re together.”

 

“But why all the secrecy?  Why didn’t you wake me last night when you brought the flowers?”

 

“Well, I was pretty confident when I left the reservation but as I got closer and closer to Dallas, my anxiety level increased.  I thought what if you had given up on me-didn’t need me anymore?  What if you had moved on and found someone else to share your life with?  I was afraid to just show up at your apartment or at the office because I wasn’t sure how I would handle it if there weren’t a chance for us.  Then I thought about how you and Trivette had been giving me a hard time about not knowing the price of roses, so I decided it was time I found out.  I figured that if things had changed for you and I, you wouldn’t have accepted my invitation tonight.”

 

Holding his hands tightly in hers and looking deep into his eyes, Alex said, “Walker, there could never be anyone else but you.  I would have waited forever for you to come home.  It was tough not knowing where you were, if you were all right or when you were coming back, but something told me that things would work out and that we would be together again.  I have loved you for so long and I wasn’t about to give up on that love without some kind of fight.  In fact, I had been thinking about going to the reservation to see if I could find you.  It was the only place I thought you would go where you would stay for such a long time.”

 

“Come here,” he replied gathering her in his arms and holding her close.  “What did I ever do to deserve you?”

 

Alex laughed, “Just lucky, I guess!”  It felt so good to be snuggled against Walker’s powerful chest, encircled in his strong arms.  She felt so safe and so secure.  Her cowboy was home and all was right with the world.

 

Walker looked down into her eyes and whispered, “I love you, Alex Cahill” as he lowered his head to kiss her waiting lips.

 

He broke their kiss and stood, walking over to the stereo.  He looked back to find Alex staring at him, confused.  He smiled and said, “I have one more surprise for you.”

 

“Oh.  What is it?”

 

“Now, Alex, if I told you, it wouldn’t be a surprise, would it?”

 

Walker placed a tape in the stereo and hit the Play button.  Suddenly the room was filled with the soft voice of Anne Murray singing “Could I Have This Dance.”  He returned to where Alex was sitting and extending his hand helped her up and into his arms.  Bathed in the glow of the firelight, Alex and Walker moved as one around the room.

 

Could I have this dance

For the rest of my life

Would you be my partner

Every night

When we’re together

It feels so right,

Could I have this dance

For the rest of my life

 

Blinking back tears, Alex clung tightly to Walker as they continued to gracefully move to the beat of the music.  As the song ended, Walker looked into her eyes and said, “Alex, do you remember that there was something I had wanted to ask you after Phil and Kim’s wedding?”

 

She nodded, not trusting her voice.

 

He moved away from her and, lowering himself to one knee took her left hand in his.  “Alex, I love you more than you will ever know and I want to spend the rest of my life with you.  Will you marry me?”  As he spoke the words, he slipped the most beautiful engagement ring that Alex had ever seen onto her finger.

 

She couldn’t breathe!  She had wished that this was the question he had wanted to ask after the wedding, but then he had disappeared and she had forced herself to push the thoughts out of her mind.  Now, here he was, back in town for less than 24 hours, asking her to be his wife.

 

It took a second for the shock to wear off before she gave Walker the answer that made him the happiest man in the world-“YES!”

 

Walker stood up, took her in his arms and kissed her tenderly.

 

Taking her hand and leading her back to the blanket, Walker sits down with his back against the couch and his legs spread.  Alex sits between his legs with her back against his chest and her head nestled against his shoulder and neck.  His arms encircle her waist to hold her close as she places her arms over his.  They lay silently wrapped in each other’s arms watching the fire.  As he stares into the flames, Walker couldn’t help but think how lucky he is.  The last two months had been trying for both of them, but now they were together again and for the first time in a long time, he was looking forward to what the days ahead would bring.  Whatever the future held, Walker knew that as long as he had Alex by his side, everything would be all right.  Just before midnight, Alex leans to the side and looks up at Walker.  “I guess I’d better be going if we’re going to meet Jimmy and C.D. for breakfast.  They’re going to be so happy to see you.”

 

Walker pulls her closer and looking deep into her eyes, whispers, “Don’t-stay here tonight-with me.  I’ve just gotten you back and I’m not ready to let you go just yet.”

 

“I don’t want to leave you either, sweetheart, but unfortunately I do have to work tomorrow and you did promise C.D. and Jimmy we’d see them for breakfast.” She murmurs against his lips.

 

Walker silently pleads with his eyes, gently brushing a strand of hair from her face.  “I never said what time we’d see them!”  He kisses her softy.

 

Alex smiles, placing her hand along the side of his face and stroking his soft beard, says, “Okay, cowboy, you win.  I guess I can go to the office a little late tomorrow.”  Smiling down at her, Walker begins gently caressing her shoulder, playing with the strap of her negligee.  “I love you so much,” he whispers.  Turning her so that her chest is now against his, he captures her lips with his as his hands begin to caress her back.   Alex’s body is tingling with desire and she feels his desire growing beneath her.  Pushing herself to her knees still between his legs, she places her hands on his powerful thighs and slowly starts to massage them.  She feels the muscles contract as he fights for control.  Standing and extending her hands to him to help him stand, she never takes her eyes from his.  Taking his hands in hers, she looks him in the eye and whispers, “Walker, make love to me.”

 

Without saying a word, he sweeps her into his arms and heads toward the stairs.  He carries her up to his room, gently placing her back on her feet along side the bed.  Gently caressing her chest and shoulders, he slides the straps of her negligee off her shoulders and the garment floats to the floor leaving her standing before him in just her panties.  Marveling at her incredible beauty, he pulls her to his chest and kisses her.  His hands begin to explore every inch of her body, leaving no part untouched or unpleasured.  Kneeling before her, he slips his hands under the waistband of her panties and slowly removes them, his hands returning to gently stroke her thighs as he kisses her flat stomach.  Alex is beginning to lose control.  No man has ever made her feel this way before.  Her skin is fiery hot and the feel of his beard against her stomach is nearly more than she can handle.  Placing her hands on his shoulders, she coaxes him back to a standing position. He pauses as he reaches her breasts, taking one in his mouth and nursing it then doing the same to the other until a small moan escapes her lips.

 

Wanting, no needing to return the pleasure he has shown her, Alex pushes him back slightly as her hands lightly stroke his chest.  Her hands slowly work their magic over his chest and stomach, coming to rest just at the top of his sweats. She has always admired his muscular body and now places kisses all over his chest, at the same time caressing his nipples with her thumbs, then moving slowly down his stomach, feeling a tremor run through his body, hearing him moan softly.  Walker is finding it extremely difficult to control himself.  He wants desperately to take her but is also enjoying the pleasures she is bestowing on him.  Unable to stand it any longer, he pulls her back to stand before him, looking deep into her eyes, his face flushed and his eyes burning with desire.  Pushing back the covers on the bed, he picks her up and gently places her on the bed, lying down beside her.

 

Staring into her eyes, he strokes the side of her face with his hand, leaning over her and kissing her.  As their kiss intensifies, his hands begin to fondle her breasts.  Desperate to feel him inside her, Alex separates her legs and coaxes Walker to complete their union.  Entering her slowly and deeply, a small moan escapes his lips.  They lie not moving staring lovingly into each other’s eyes and reveling in the feel of each other.  Slowly and deliberately, Walker begins to move.  Alex matches his movements with her own as they are carried away on a sea of pleasure.  The pleasure they bring to each other is incredible.  Their movement increases as they reach the brink of gratification.  With one final trust, the lovers explode in sheer ecstasy.  Trying to catch his breath and unable to support his own weight any longer, Walker rolls to the side bringing Alex to rest beside him.  Reaching behind her, Alex covers them both and snuggles closer to the man she loves playfully kissing his neck.

 

Kissing the top of her head, Walker tightens his hold on Alex, telling her over and over how much he loves her.  They drift off to sleep securely wrapped in each other’s arms.

 

*****

 

C.D.’s - 7:00 a.m.

 

Walker strides through the door, removing his hat as he enters.  He looks around but does not see C.D. anywhere.

 

“Hey, where is everybody?”

 

“Cordell?  Cordell, is that you?”

 

“Yeah, C.D. it’s me.  Where are you?”

 

“I’m in the storeroom.  I’ll be right out.”

 

“Take your time, I’m not going anywhere.”

 

Emerging from the hallway to the left of the bar, C.D. comes rushing into the main part of the bar.  Walker is standing in the middle of the bar, looking around, and familiarizing himself again with his favorite hang out.  Seeing C.D. approaching, he turns smiling at his former partner and mentor and extending his hand.  “Hey, C.D.”

 

C.D. grasps Walker’s hand and pulls him into a hug.  “Cordell, I can’t tell you how good it is to see you.  Welcome home, son.”

 

Returning the older man’s embrace, Walker replies, “Thanks, C.D.  It’s good to be back.”

 

Looking around the bar, C.D. looks at Walker with concern in his eyes.  “Where’s Alex.  Is everything all right between you two?”

 

Patting C.D. on the shoulder, Walker eases his concerns.  “Everything’s fine, C.D.  Alex will be here shortly.”

 

Breathing a sigh of relief, “Oh, good.  That little lady sure did miss you, Cordell.”

 

“I know, C.D.  I missed her too.  Hey, where’s Trivette?”

 

As if on cue, Trivette comes through the door, “Someone call me?”

 

“Hey, Trivette!”

 

Striding over to his partner, Walker greets Trivette with a handshake and firm embrace.

 

“Walker!  Man, it is so great to see you.  You look great, man!”

 

“Thanks.  I feel great!  It’s good to see you too, pard!

 

Walking over to a table with their arms around each other’s shoulders, Walker and Trivette join C.D.  Glancing around the room, Trivette turns to Walker.  “Hey, where’s Alex?  You two are okay, aren’t you?”

 

“Yeah, Trivette, we’re fine.  Alex should be here any minute but before she gets here, I wanted you both to know how much I appreciate everything you’ve done over these past couple of months taking care of the ranch and especially taking care of Alex.  She told me that she never would have made it without you guys.  I know I put you all through hell and I’m sorry for that.  I really never intended to be gone so long but I had a lot of bottled up emotions that I had to deal with.  Thanks to White Eagle, I was able to do that and get back home.”

 

Both C.D. and Trivette were surprised at the outpouring from Walker.  It was so unlike him to express his feelings.  It appeared that his time away had finally allowed him to open up.

 

C.D. was the first to speak.  “Cordell, no thanks are necessary.  You know that Jimmy and I would do anything for you.  And as for Alex, that gal is somethin’ special to all of us.”

 

Trivette followed slapping Walker on the shoulder, “Hey, isn’t that what friends are for?  You’d do the same for us in heartbeat.”

 

“Thanks guys.  You’re the best friends, the best “family” I could ever ask for.”

 

“Hey, I thought you said Alex was on her way.  Shouldn’t she be here by now?”

 

Coming through the door just as Trivette makes this statement, Alex says “She is here!”

 

“Hey, Counselor!”

 

“Hi there darlin’.”

 

Striding up to Walker’s outstretched arm, she slips into his embrace, carefully hiding her engagement ring behind his back.  “Hi.”

 

Kissing her on the cheek and giving her a gentle squeeze, he responds “Hi.”

 

Trivette and C.D. are beaming at the sight of their two best friends back where they belong-in each other’s arms.

 

“Alex, you look great!”

 

“Why thank you, Jimmy."  With a slight glance toward Walker, her eyes twinkling “It’s amazing what a good night’s sleep will do for you.”

 

“Jimmy, give me a hand a minute in the kitchen, will ya?  Breakfast is ready.  We just need to pull it out of the oven.”

 

“Sure, Big Dog.”

 

C.D. and Jimmy disappear into the kitchen leaving Walker and Alex alone.  Walker steps back, takes Alex’s hands in his and looks her up and down.  “You really do look great, Alex, but I think I prefer what you were wearing this morning.”

 

Giggling, “Actually, I prefer that as well but didn’t think it was appropriate for the office.”

 

“So when do you want to tell them?”

 

“I thought we’d play it by ear and see when the opportunity presents itself.”

 

“Okay, I’m willing to play along.”

 

Exiting the kitchen with four steaming plates of breakfast, C.D. yells “Come and get it while it’s still hot!”

 

The friends gather at the bar with Walker in the middle, Alex to his right, Trivette to his left and C.D. across from him behind the bar.  They spend the next ½ hour eating their food and bringing Walker up to date on what has been happening around Dallas for the last two months.

 

Glancing at her watch and giving Walker a wink, Alex says, “Say, C.D., could I get another cup of coffee before I head out?”  She reaches down with her left hand and picks up her coffee mug, extending it toward C.D. and fighting to keep a straight face.

 

“Sure, honey, comin’ right up.”  He turns to retrieve the coffee pot from the burner.

 

Trivette looks up from his breakfast, sees Alex’s engagement ring and nearly chokes on his eggs.  He looks frantically from Alex to Walker, both of whom are trying desperately not to laugh.

 

Walker slaps him on the back lightly trying to help his choking.  “Hey, Trivette, you okay?”

 

“Walker!!!  I don’t believe it, man.  You finally did it, didn’t you?  Oh, man, this is huge!  This is so great!”

 

Exiting the kitchen holding the coffee pot, C.D. says “Jimmy, what in tarnation are you carrying on about?”

 

Pointing toward Alex’s hand holding the coffee mug, he yells “Big Dog!!!!  LOOK!!!!

 

“Jimmy, I’ve seen a coffee mug before.”

 

“NOT THE MUG, BIG DOG, THE RING, THE RING!!!!!”

 

Looking again, C.D. finally notices the exquisite diamond ring perched on Alex’s finger.  “Oh, my Lord!” is all he can manage to say.

 

Walker and Alex can no longer stand it; both completely lose it in fits of laughter.

 

The laughter and congratulations fill the morning air as the friends celebrate the engagement of Alex Cahill and Cordell Walker.

 

THE END