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A Shot in The Dark

By Sissy (with the help of Jen, Kay, and Lelani)

 

"Hey, you two are welcome up here anytime." Charley waves goodbye then watches as his two visitors move out on the trail back down the mountain.

Charley Yates, a retired Texas Ranger who loves the mountains. With his wife dead for several years and no children, Charley had followed his hearts desire and moved to the cabin in the mountains when he retired two years ago. When the state of Texas added Charley to the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame, Walker volunteered to make the trip to the mountains to inform Charley of the honor. And also take him a plaque that is a copy of the one to be placed in the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame. When he had told Alex of the trip, and invited her to go along, she had jumped at the chance. She had been wanting to get away with him for a long time, but work always seemed to get in the way.

They both turn and wave once more to the old Ranger before riding away from his homestead taking the trail down the mountain. They’d had a wonderful visit with Charley, and upon their leaving he had pack a picnic lunch for them to eat on their daylong trip. The air is brisk but the sun takes away the chill when they start away from the small cabin. At noon they stop beside a bubbling stream, and under the protection of the overhanging branches of a large fir tree, they spread their blanket on the ground to have their picnic lunch.

"Walker it is so beautiful up here," Alex says, leaning into Walker’s side.

"Yeah, it is. I think I can understand Charley for wanting to live out his remaining years here."

"It’s a lonely existence though, don’t you think?"

"Depends. Charley has no family so he is probably content to be out here by himself." He wraps his arms around Alex, and whispers in her ear, "Could you live up here away from everybody…"

Snuggling closer, she murmurs softly, "Only if you were with me, then I could live anywhere." Lifting her face up she presses her lips to his, as she slides her arms inside his coat. She whispers his name within the kiss as he pulls her hard against him.

As the kiss becomes more heated, their hands begin to grapple with the heavy coats, fingers unbuttoning the warm flannel shirts and pushing them aside. Her fingers move through the thick mat of hair on his chest as he cups her breast, kneading the soft flesh, his thumb working the nub into near painful arousal. Alex moans as his lips leave hers, kissing down her neck, till they close over one of her nipples, she leans back, arching into his mouth.

He gently lowers her back onto the blanket as his mouth moves to the other breast, giving it the same attention as his hand moves down her belly and begins to undo the belt of her jeans, then the zipper is drawn down and his hand slips inside the soft silk of her panties.

When his fingers comb through the soft blonde curls, Alex draws in her breath sharply, as he pushes two fingers deep inside her and her body begins to buck wildly as she rides his hand, her body eager to be brought to completion.

Wanting him inside her, she pulls at his belt, his zipper, until she can finally wrap her hand around him, releasing him from the confines of his clothes.

"Walker …please … I need you … inside me…"

At her cry, he pushes her jeans and panties down, then as her legs open and he moves between them bringing a whimper of relief as he slides into her. Their bodies begin to move in the age-old rhythm of lovers until the pace is frantic taking them to highest pinnacle of desire. He hears her cry out at the same time she tightens around him drawing him over the edge with her.

It’s a long time before either of them can move and then it’s Walker who eases his weight onto his elbows and looks down at her with eyes that are still dark with desire.

"Alex, if we didn’t need to get started I’d take you again."

"Well … the day is still young…" she murmurs as she rolls up against him.

"I know, but if we don’t get started it’ll be dark before we get down off this mountain."

"Walker…"

***

As they follow the trail down through the trees, Walker keeps glancing up at the sky, noticing the dark clouds moving in. Damn, I knew we shouldn’t have stayed longer. They would be lucky if they made it before dark as it was but it looks like they may be fighting snow, too

"Alex, we need to go back to the cabin, it’s getting too cold to try and make it down the mountain before it gets dark. Besides it looks like snow." Walker stops his horse and waits till she moves her horse up beside him.

"But, Walker, it’s not that much farther is it? Why not keep going?"

"It’s farther than you think. But …" he says, looking ahead of them, "… you might be right. Come on, let’s go." He takes her hand in his, prods the horses into a walk and they continue on down the trail.

Walker brings his horse to a sudden stop when he hears a noise. "Alex, listen!" He stares off to the left back through the trees. "That sounds like someone in trouble. Stay close to me, Alex." He turns his horse and with Alex riding at his side, he moves off the trail trying to locate where the shouts came from. With night approaching, the shadows make it hard to see clearly.

Not wanting to surprise anyone, Walker calls out, "Hello, do you need help?" Entering a small clearing, they see what looks like someone lying on the ground. Moving closer, they dismount and Alex kneels down beside the body lying on the ground. Just then two men, with heavy coats on, come out of the trees, at the edge of the clearing, on their left.

When she hears them Alex stands up and then freezes. "Walker! He’s got a gun!"

"I got ‘em, Turk!" the big one says to someone behind him. In that brief instant, Alex sees his finger tightening on the trigger and flings herself in front of Walker, screaming, "NO!" and then Walker feels her body take the bullet, feels its impact as it throws her back against him.

All in one motion, Walker drops the horse’s reins, and draws his gun, firing at the shooter as Alex falls against him.

"Oh, God, NO!" His arm goes around her waist to hold her up. "Oh, God, Alex!"

Walker looks over and sees Turk kneeling down by the one on the ground. Cursing loudly, Turk straightens and starts running toward them. Walker quickly lifts Alex into his arms, grabs the loose reins of his horse and swings himself into the saddle.

He feels a bullet rip through his sleeve missing his arm by a hair. Walker ducks his head, and pulls Alex tightly against his chest just as another bullet whistles over his head. He digs his heels into the horse’s sides and they are soon lost in the trees.

As they race through the trees, he feels a snowflake hit his face, then another. Walker looks up into the skies, skies filled with dark clouds full of snow. Freezing cold and now snow. Things couldn’t get any worse.

Looking down at Alex’s quiet, pale face, he knows he has to stop soon, has to stop the bleeding. He slips his hand inside her coat, over her heart. The beat is slow and steady.

He brings his horse to a stop, listening for anyone following. There’s no sounds except the quiet falling of the snow. With it snowing this hard, he doesn’t think they will follow, especially if the one he shot is hurt very badly.

Gently as he can, he dismounts holding Alex carefully in his arms. He lowers her to the ground and opens her coat. Her chest is covered with blood. He sees the bullet hole high on her left shoulder. He lifts her up and breathes a sigh of relief that the bullet had gone clean through. But she is bleeding heavily. He pulls her back into his arms and scooping up a handful of snow, he flattens it against the wound. Hoping the snow will slow the bleeding, he does the same to the back. He continues doing this until the bleeding has nearly stopped. With hands numb with cold, he takes his coat off, then his shirt, twists it into a long strip then wraps it around her shoulder and ties it tightly.

He puts his coat back on, picks up Alex and mounts his horse again. With Alex nestled tight against his chest, he begins looking for some kind of shelter.

He rides slowly through the trees, looking around for any kind of protection against the storm. When he tore out of that clearing with Alex, he never paid any attention to where he was going, he just had to get her out of there. And now, with it snowing so hard and night coming on them fast, he searches frantically with his eyes, desperate for any kind of shelter.

Alex moans and stirs slightly, "It’s all right, hon. Hold on, just a little farther." He tightens his hold on her and realizes that his horse has stopped. Looking up he sees a dilapidated barn in front of him. "Thank God."

He slides down from the horse with Alex in his arms and carries her inside. The barn has more siding off than on, and trying to find a place that is out of the wind is proving harder by the minute. When he sees some dry hay piled in a dark corner, he lays Alex down then piles the hay up around her for warmth.

After getting her settled he brings his horse into the barn, takes the saddle off and rubs him down trying to get him as dry as possible. Then piling a little hay in front of him, Walker moves back to where Alex is.

He lies down beside her to give as much of his body heat as he can. He feels her forehead, and finding no fever, he breathes easier, and pulls her closer.

He is almost asleep when he feels Alex stir against him, and a weak murmur, "Walker…? Where are…" Suddenly her body is telling her mind that something is wrong. Dreadfully wrong. "Walker!" She presses her head back against his arm, feeling the searing hot pain in her shoulder. It’s worse than anything she’s ever known. A deep burning, tearing pain. She wants to scream, it hurt so bad, but Walker is holding her still and talking quietly to her, trying to calm her down, trying to help her through it.

"Take slow, deep breaths," she hears him say, his breath warm on her cheek. "It will help the pain. Slow, Alex, very slow breaths. Try it. Come on."

She does. It takes all her willpower, but she does it. Slow and deep. Slow … and … deep.

He continues to talk to her, encouraging her until once again she falls into a deep sleep.

He doesn’t know whether to be relieved or scared out of his mind. At least she is free of the pain for a while.

When Alex wakes again, some several hours later, it is close to midnight and it’s still snowing, but not as heavy as before.

She opens her eyes to see Walker staring at her, "Walker? Are you alright?"

"Yes, honey, I’m fine." He feels her forehead and still finds the skin cool to his touch. "And you’re going to be alright, too. You’ve got a shoulder wound, I’ve got the bleeding stopped but it’s going to hurt like blazes."

"It does hurt, like crazy. Is it still snowing?"

"Yes, a little."

"Walker, what are we going to do?"

He kisses her cheek, "When morning comes, I’ll get my bearings, and if it’s stopped snowing we’ll finish our ride out of here." He snuggles closer to her, being careful of her wound, "Try to relax, honey, go back to sleep, rest is what you need now." He kisses her again, then lays his head close to hers, listening as her breathing slows, and the tension leave her body, knowing she has fallen asleep again or has passed out.

When the horse whinny’s, Walker opens his eyes and sits up to look at Alex still sleeping at his side. Touching her, he’s surprised that she hasn’t gotten a fever. As gently as possible, he moves away from her, stands and walks to the door of the barn. It is morning, but the day is overcast and dreary but, thankfully, the snow has stopped.

He steps to the doorway and looks around, he discovers that when they had ridden out of the clearing they had headed down the mountain, taking them closer to the small town where they had rented the horses for the ride to Charley Yates’ cabin.

****

"Walker?"

When he hears her call, he moves back into the barn and sits down beside her, taking her hand in his, "Hi, how are you feeling?"

"It hurts, but not as much."

"We need to get out of here, Alex, before it starts snowing again. We’re not to far from Finley, do you think you can make it, if we go slow?"

"Well, I’m just gonna have to make it, aren’t I?" She remarks as she tries to sit up. Her face pales and twists in agony at her movement, and Walker steady’s her with his arm around her.

"Alex, just breathe slow and easy and rest a minute while I get the horse saddled."

Returning to her side, he touches her forehead and remarkably it’s still cool.

"Just take it a little at a time, okay?" When her body relaxes, he slips his arms around her and helps her to her feet. She gives a moan through clenched teeth, as Walker holds her against him.

He picks her up and settles her into the saddle and quickly climbs up behind her, pulling her back against his chest. "Slow and easy, honey. Relax against me, okay? Let me know when you feel ready."

"Walker, what … about those men? Aah … won’t they be looking for us?" Her voice full of pain.

"Probably, but we can’t stay here. This snow may slow them down some. A lot depends on whether I killed that man or not."

"I wonder what they were doing out here. Seems like a funny place to meet."

"A good place for murder, though." When he says this, Alex turns her head to look at him, knowing if he’s right, the other man will definitely be looking for them.

"Let’s go, Walker, I’m as ready as I’ll ever be." She feels his arm tighten around her waist and she stifles a moan behind clenched teeth, as the horse starts moving. Every step the horse takes is like a knife stabbing her, and it isn’t long before she slumps over from the pain that is shooting through her.

When Walker feels her body relax, he’s glad, knowing that now she can’t feel the pain. Moving slow and keeping alert to every movement in the trees, he is well aware that those men could be anywhere.

Two hours later, Walker sees the faint outline of buildings ahead, and knows that they are finally safe and he can get a doctor for Alex. But at the same time, he realizes that the killers could be in town, too. He follows close to the tree line and comes up to the stables from the back. He slides off the horse and then pulls Alex down into his arms. Knocking on the door, he waits patiently for an answer. When Abe Kelsey, the man who had rented him the horses, opens the door he quickly steps inside, and goes into the warm office area. Sitting down with Alex in his lap, he explains who he is and what has happened. "Those men could be here in town, waiting for us to show. Do you know of somewhere we can stay out of site?"

"Sure do, son, right here. I’ve got a room that you can use. I’ll show you where it is, and then I’ll go get old Doc Stone. He’s old, but he’s good." When he turns, Walker stands and follows him into his living quarters. "Just put her down in there, and I’ll go get Doc." Walker turns to look at him, his appreciation showing in his eyes. "That’s alright, son. And I’ll be discreet about getting Doc, too."

Walker lays Alex down on the bed, removes her coat and notices that the wound is bleeding again. He presses down on the bandage trying to stench the flow. When it finally stops, he sits down beside her, leans over and kisses her softly, murmuring, "I love you." Alex stirs slightly at his voice then becomes still again.

He’s still sitting on the edge of the bed when Doc Stone enters the room. Walker stands and moves back out of the way, but stays close enough to watch. The doctor removes the shirt, that Walker had used for a bandage, her shirt, and then cleans the wound and puts an antibiotic ointment to the entrance and exit of the wound then applies a new bandage. When he stands, he turns to face Walker. "She’s gonna be fine. She’ll be in a lot of pain for awhile but I’ve got some pain pills for her when she wakes."

He guides Walker out into the main room, "Now, you want to tell me what happened? You know I’ve got to report this. But I want to hear your story first."

Walker sits down by the old stove and tells the doctor everything that happened. When he mentions the name, Turk, he notices that both Doc and Abe look at each other in alarm. "Do you know him?"

"Well, son, if you’re sure that’s the name you heard … then yes, we do know him. Since there aren’t to many men around here with that name, it’s got to be our duly elected Sheriff!"

"Your Sheriff!"

"Yeah, but I’m not surprised. Can you describe the other two?"

"No, I’m afraid not. They were in the shadows and the body on the ground was face down."

"Ummm … Ranger Walker, would you tell me again how your wife got shot?"

"She jumped in front of me, took the bullet meant for me. Why?"

"Well, I notice you have a lot of blood on your coat and if the bullet went right through her where did it go?"

Walker stares at them with a puzzled look on his face, then as he drops his head to look down at the front of his coat, it’s then he feels the gnawing pain in his chest. He pulls his coat open and sees the blood covering his chest. "Well, I’ll be … I never felt anything." When he feels the trembling in his legs he moves to sit on the bed beside Alex. After stripping Walker down to the waist, the doc says, "Well, it didn’t do much damage, it’s just nestled right up against a rib. No damage at all really. I think your wife’s body took most of the force of that bullet. You’re a lucky man, if she hadn’t jumped in front of you, you’d be dead. That bullet was going right for your heart. As it is your chest will be pretty sore for awhile, but at least you’re alive." After he removes the bullet and patches Walker up, he instructs him to just rest with his wife and then come morning they’ll discuss the problem of the shooting.

Walker wakes to find Alex staring at him, her blue eyes clear and bright, "Walker, where are we?"

"Morning, baby, how are you feeling?" He sits up, winces slightly as he leans over and kisses her gently on the lips.

"Walker, you’re hurt! You told me you were all right. How bad is it?" She reaches out her hand to gently touch the bandage around his chest, then looks up into his eyes, hers filled with worry.

"Alex, I’m fine, really. I guess I stopped the bullet after it went through you. I’ll be sore but it didn’t do any damage." He pauses for a moment as he thinks about the ramifications of what she did. "You saved my life, honey, and I love you for it, but," his voice grows husky, "… if I’d lost you, my life would be over anyway." He snuggles his head next to hers, and whispers, "I love you so much."

Alex moves her hand up, caressing his cheek, "I love you, too, honey." They kiss tenderly, "Walker, where are we?"

"We’re back in Finley, this is Abe Kelsey’s place. Where we got the horses? He’s letting us stay here till we can figure out what to do. Doc Stone is out in the other room with him. You’re not going to believe it, but that Turk, is the sheriff of this town."

"Oh, no. What do we do now? Do they know who the other man was?"

"No, and I couldn’t help them. I never got a good look at the other one or the one on the ground. Did you?"

"I got a very good look at the one who shot at you, … and I’m not sure but I think the one on the ground was a woman. Slim build, a redhead."

Walker smiles and carefully pulls her up against his chest, "You are one remarkable lady, you know that? And I love you." He tilts her head up, kisses her gently on the lips, "Honey, I need to go talk to Abe and Doc Stone. Find out their opinion about this … sheriff. You just rest now, go back to sleep, I’ll be back in a little while."

As Walker slips from the bed, Alex reaches out to stop him, but the effort brings a gasp of pain, and she falls back, her face as pale as the pillow she’s lying on.

Walker immediately sits back down, "Alex, you need to take it easy, don’t strain yourself, you don’t want to open up your wound."

Little by little the color returns to her face, and she smiles at her husband. "Okay, I’ll stay put, at least … for a little while longer."

Walker smiles and leans down to brush his lips over hers, "You stay in bed, that’s an order."

"An order," she says as she tries to rise.

"Okay, okay," he recants, "a request then."

She shuts her eyes, and with a smile on her face, murmurs softly, "That’s better."

Brushing his lips across hers again then touching them to her eyelids tenderly, stands and quietly leaves the room.

****

Alex awakes to the soft murmuring of voices in the next room. Opening her eyes, it takes her but a minute to remember where she is. Needing to use the bathroom, she shoves the covers back with her good arm and then cautiously moves to a sitting position. That act alone brings a fine sheen of sweat to her forehead. Waiting until the small wave of dizziness dissipates, she turns sideways, swinging her legs over the side of the bed. Then looking around to ascertain where the bathroom is, she pushes herself to her feet, teetering slightly, then tentatively, with slow laborious steps makes her way to the open door of the bathroom.

After relieving herself, she turns to the sink and splashes water on her face. Sighing softly from the refreshing coolness, she dries her face and then makes the return trip to the bedroom. As she sits down on the edge of the bed she listens for the first time to the words drifting in from the other room. Taking the rather large, faded robe from the foot of the bed, she puts it on, and then after wrapping the sash around her twice, she walks slowly, but with renewed strength, to the door separating her from her husband.

Walker, sitting on the couch, glances away from the two men sitting across from him, when he hears the door to the bedroom swing open. Seeing Alex standing there, he rushes to her side and as he slides his arm around her for support, he chastises her softly, "Alex, you should be in bed, come on, I’ll help you back…"

"No," she replies with strength she didn’t really feel, but she wanted to stay with him. "I’m all right, a little weak but I’m feeling better by the minute."

Walker swings his eyes to the doctor, and receiving a nod of approval, he guides Alex over to the couch that he had just vacated.

"Have you found out anymore about the people we saw?" Alex asks as she glances at the two men sitting across from her.

"Turk Barlow has two brothers, Jeb and Oscar, the man that your husband shot was probably Jeb. And if your right about the one lying on the ground being a woman of slight build and red hair, that could be Samantha Gooding, a teller from the bank. She was sweet on Turk." Abe says, as he rises and moves to the kitchen.

"But what they were doing out there is anyone’s guess. Sounds like Samantha got on the wrong side of the sheriff, to say the least." Doc moves over to sit beside Alex to check her bandage, "It’s okay, no bleeding. Just don’t exercise that arm for awhile, okay?"

Alex nods then turns to Walker, "What are we going to do? You know they’ll be looking for us. If they see your truck they’ll know we’re here."

Abe, fixing a pot of coffee in the kitchen, smiles and says, "Well, they won’t find your truck, at least not for awhile. I took the liberty of taking your keys and moving it inside the barn. But if he starts searching the town…"

"Maybe we should leave, I don’t want to bring you two into the middle of this. You have been great to help us out but I don’t want you guys to get hurt."

Doc stands and moves out to the kitchen with Abe. "We’ve been having trouble with Turk ever since he took office, but this is the first time we’ve gotten any kind of evidence against him and his brothers. They’ve been bullying the townspeople long enough, now we can do something about it. That is if you’re willing to help us catch him."

He looks at Alex and then at the two old men in the kitchen, "I’ll do whatever it takes to put Turk behind bars. Do you know if anyone else could be in this with him?"

Abe moves back into the living room with a tray containing four cups of steaming coffee, sits it on the small table and says, "He has another brother, that’s a deputy, too."

"Well, I think we’d better be prepared for them to show up here."

"What makes you think they’ll come here? Oh, I know that eventually they’ll come and ask questions, but that will be a while won’t it?"

Walker stands and walks to the window, looking out at the snow covered landscape, watching as snow quietly floats to the ground. "I’m surprised they haven’t been here yet."

Walker turns to find Alex and the two old men looking at him with apprehension in their eyes.

"Just think about it. When we rode away from them out there, we ended up riding down hill and he knows that one of us was wounded."

Doc turns to look at Abe with look of acceptance. "You know he’s right. He’s probably looking for me right now. And … he knows me and you spend lots of time together."

"Hmm… I see." Abe turns and looks at Walker. "Do you have any weapons besides the one on you?"

"Yes, I’ve got a rifle in the truck."

Abe smiles and reaching down behind the bar, "You mean this one?" he says as he raises his hand with a rifle in it.

Walker smiles, "Yes, that one."

"Honey, are you serious about them coming here? I mean…" a knock on the door causes her to swallow the rest of her words. She stiffens in the seat, and a second knock pulls her from the trance and she looks at Walker.

He touches his finger to his lips, and drawing his gun moves into the foyer to stand beside the door and motions for Abe to answer it.

Abe opens the door, "Yeah, what is it deputy?"

"Is Doc Stone here?"

Upon hearing his name, Doc reaches under the counter and pulls out a checkerboard and the box of checkers and moves up behind Abe. "I’m here, what do you want?"

"We need you down at the jail, Doc, Jeb’s been shot."

"Has he now. Well, take him to my office and I’ll meet you there."

"Hurry!" The deputy shouts as he turns to leave.

Moving back into the living room, Doc grabs his coat and shrugs it on, then picking up his medical bag, moves to the door.

Walker stops him, "Doc, be careful, they may be up to something."

"Well, if I don’t go then they’ll know something is wrong. I’ll be careful."

After Doc leaves Abe moves back to the kitchen and begins taking eggs and bacon out of the refrigerator, and begins putting together a meal as they wait for the doctor to return.

Walker paces from one window to another, upset that these two men had gotten pulled into his and Alex’s problem. He’s almost tempted to go out after Doc, and bring him back even if he has to haul him back bodily.

After two hours, Walker checks his gun to make sure it is fully loaded, then grabs his coat and heads for the door.

As he turns the knob and pulls it open, Doc is raising his hand to knock. He looks at Walker with surprise on his face. "Oh, going somewhere?"

"I was coming for you, thought sure you were in trouble."

"No, I’m fine … for now. But that may change. Turk’s brother, Jeb, was so close to death, I couldn’t do anything for him. Before I left I did hear Turk order a search of the whole town."

"I’m not surprised."

"So … we’d better get ready for some visitors, Abe." Walker turns and looks back at Doc. Stone, "How many should we prepare for?"

"He has two deputies besides his brother, Oscar, so we should be watching out for four."

"Walker, what are you going to do," Alex says, looking at him with apprehension, wishing they could just get in the truck and go home.

They check the house and make sure all door and windows are locked then sit back and wait for ‘their visitors’."

Alex is almost dozing on the couch in her little ‘fortress’ when the first knock sounds on the front door, bringing her fully awake.

Abe looks out the window and sees Turk’s brother Oscar, raising his fist to pound on the door again.

"It’s Oscar, not to bright but he’s meaner than junk yard dog. Watch him close…"

Another bang on the door stops the warning from leaving his mouth, "Open up Abe, I know you’re harboring criminals in there." The words are no sooner out of his mouth, than the hard force of a booted foot is thrust against the door breaking it away from the frame. At the same time the back door comes crashing in. Alex screams! And suddenly the room is filled with Turk, Oscar and his two deputies. "Where’s that son-of-a-bitch that killed my brother."

"Right here!" Walker shouts as he brings his foot up kicking Turk’s gun away, then his fist is backhanded across the sheriff’s face, slamming him back against the door that had just been kicked in. As Turk falls backward, the first deputy charges Walker and doubles over as a booted foot in his soft belly knocks the wind out of him, sending him down to the floor. Looking around he sees Doc struggling with the second deputy and Abe holding his own with Oscar.

Taking a quick glance at Alex to make sure she is all right, he wades in the battle between Doc and the deputy. When he throws a kick to the stiffened knee of the deputy, a howl of pain erupts from the man, and he releases the doctor. Grabbing at his knee he turns with a drawn gun toward Walker. The gesture is futile as Walker slams the side of his hand onto arm with the gun, sending it spinning out of the picture. A savage right to the jaw and the second deputy is out cold on the floor. He turns in time to see Doc bring the rifle barrel down on Oscar’s head.

The victors move to the middle of the room, surveying the four bodies sprawled on the floor. Doc grins and says, "Lordy, that’s the most fun I’ve had in a month of Sundays!"

Abe turns to look at his checker playing buddy, "Yeah, it was. It was easier than I thought it would be but I think that’s because of the Ranger here."

"I know it was because of this Ranger. He has a wicked way of dealing with low-life."

Alex gingerly lifts herself from the couch and makes her way over to stand by her husband, who automatically wraps an arm around her waist, bringing her into his side. "Are you all right, honey?" he asks as he looks down into her soft blue eyes.

"I’m fine." She runs her hand over his chest and feeling wetness, "Walker you’ve opened your wound." She lifts her eyes to meet his then cries out, "Doc … he’s bleeding."

Doc Stone steps over the bodies, moving to Walker’s side. "Here, let me see." He pulls Walker’s shirt open and exclaims, "He sure is, but it’s light. Sit down over here, Ranger, let me check that again."

Walker is quickly checked out and a new bandage applied then he helps Doc and Abe tie up the Barlow brothers and the two deputies. A call is made to the next town asking for assistance and when it arrives, they breathe a sigh of relief, as they watch the bad guys being hustled out of Abe’s house.

Walker slides his arm around Alex, pulling her close, as they watch the two patrol cars pull away, with the sheriff and his brother in the back seat of one and the deputies in the other, the nightmare is finally over. He looks up at the darkening sky, "Alex, why don’t we spend the night in the hotel here in town and get an early start in the morning?"

She turns around to face him, "No way, Cowboy. I don’t care where we go but I don’t want to spend another minute longer than necessary in this town."

Seeing the determined look on her face, he smiles into her blazing blue eyes and pausing only long enough to say goodbye to Doc and Abe and thank them for their help, he starts walking her towards his truck, still parked in the barn. He opens the door and helps her up on the seat, takes the seatbelt, fastens her in, and then moves around to the driver’s side.

Driving through a small town about 20 miles from Finley, Walker looks over and sees Alex nodding in her seat. "Honey," he murmurs, as he lays his hand on her thigh, "is this far enough from Finley?"

She moans softly, lays her hand over his, and without opening her eyes, asks, "How far?"

"Twenty miles?"

"Hmm … that’s good."

He smiles as her head falls back against the seat, and her hand relaxes over his as her body gives in to the exhaustion of the last few days.

He pulls off the highway and thirty minutes later he is helping to get Alex ready for bed. He helps her wash up, puts one of his shirts on her and tucks her between the crisp clean sheets. He leans over and kisses her softly on the mouth; she smiles up at him and shuts her eyes, sleep claiming her almost instantly.

****

Alex’s senses slowly climbs up from the snug cocoon, with lingering wisps of warm dreams trying to draw her back down into the soft depths of sleep. She lay buried in warmth, her body so heavy she can’t move, her mind drugged with sleep. For a long minute she’s disoriented, images of ice, blowing snow and cold are distortions in her mind. Then slowly, full memory returns. She still can’t move but her foggy brain clears and she knows she is in bed with her husband, that her body is pressed to his side and she knows the room is filled with the warm rays of sunshine. She remembers being caught in the snow, of being shot and the painful ride down the mountain. And finally of leaving Finley after the confrontation with the sheriff and his brother, with them also being locked up in his own jail. She remembers the goodbye to Abe and Doc and then the short journey in the truck. They weren’t home, they weren’t in Dallas, but they were off the mountain. They had stopped and gotten a room in the first decent motel, leaving Finley far behind.

And then she becomes aware of something nudging her bare thigh. The shirt is twisted around her waist, and something is burrowing, nuzzling against her skin. Lazily she moves her hand down and her fingers close over the hard shaft of flesh that flickers, grows, and pulses against her palm.

Alex smiles to herself. Walker is still asleep while his body plays, maybe in answer to his dreaming. She begins to play with him, her fingertips lightly stroking, kneading, then sliding over the end to feel the dampening tip. The flesh leaps in her palm, like it has a life of its own. Her smile widens, as she feels the delicious moist warmth gathering between her legs, and with her free hand, she touches herself.

"Let me do that." Walker’s sleepy voice, husky with desire, caresses her even as his hand moves over her belly to slip between her thighs. His fingers find the little nub that nestles near the tender opening of her body and he gently brings it to life. Alex whimpers softly as he dips his finger, then two, inside her, her hips lifting against the gently movement of his hand.

They lie side by side, facing each other, under the warmth of the covers, playing with each other, until the urgent desire has banished the last vestiges of sleep. Walker turns her gently so that her back is to him, and then he fits himself against her, curling around her bottom. "I don’t want to hurt your shoulder," he whispers, his beard brushing against her neck, sending delicious shivers through her. "Bring your knees up."

Her body opens to him and he slides into her, one hand at her waist, the other softly caressing her breast. Alex does nothing but lie still while the waves of delight wash over her, awakening her nerve endings, desire heating her blood and when he pulls her tightly against him, she feels his breathing, fast and hard, caressing her neck, his belly pressing against her bottom, his flesh pulsing deep within her, flooding her with his seed, she shudders and cries out softly as waves of pleasure ripples through her body.

Several minutes later, Walker pulls back and turns her in his arms, "Did we hurt your shoulder?"

"Mmm? … Oh, no, I’m fine." She snuggles close burying her face in his neck, "Walker?"

"Huh?"

"Do you remember what I told you when we came back from Utah?"

"Utah?"

"You know, the bear?"

"Hmm … something about not asking to go on trips with me anymore, right?"

"Well, I mean it this time."

Walker begins chuckling as he tightens his arms around her, "Yeah, right."

"Walker … I mean it."

"I’m sure you do, for now."

There is a soft giggle and then … it’s quiet … except for the accelerated breathing.

The End