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A Grand Plan
Driving past the highly maintained pristine building which denotes the first rest stop leading into my home state from the Louisiana border, I sigh in relief when I see the Texas flag flying proudly beside the Stars and Stripes. With over fifteen hundred miles behind me, I can finally relax and feel at ease.
I glance over at the passenger seat to my sleeping companion and smile. After spending two nights in the same hotel room, I'm seeing her in a whole new light. I had never paid too much attention to her looks probably because at the time I was more concerned with her courtroom skills. After all, she was my successor, and more importantly, she was going to have to be tough enough to work with Jack McCoy.
Serena begins to shift in the seat signaling her return to wakefulness. I turn my attention back to the road but use my peripheral vision to watch as she tries to stretch out the kinks.
Rubbing her face with her hands, Serena asks, "Where are we now?"
"Well, ma'am, we are in the greatest state in the land where everything is bigger and better," I answer in an exaggerated Texas drawl.
A groan is heard from my travel mate, and I find myself smiling once again. This trip is turning out much better than I originally thought.
When Olivia came to me with her grand plan, I thought she had lost her ever loving mind. First, she insisted I drive to Texas instead of fly, and when I balked, she calmly explained the importance of security and mentioned that no one would think my driving down to Texas for a visit would be anything out of the ordinary.
Of course, I was both honored and flattered that I was being trusted with an integral part of the scheme, but I admit to protesting when she mentioned that she wanted Serena to accompany me on my mission. She explained that it would merely appear as if I was taking my girlfriend home to meet my parents, and she strongly emphasized that Serena's role would not be too much of a stretch for her to play and even insisted she was typecast for it. Her casual mention of Serena's sexual preference piqued my interest just as Olivia knew it would. She played me perfectly.
Shaking my head to clear the memories, I turn to my companion and ask, "Are you hungry? There's a decent sized city ahead so I'm sure there will be places to stop along the interstate. We could even call it a day and find a hotel unless you want to continue on to Houston."
"How long will it take to get to Houston from here?" Serena asks in a tired voice.
"Um, probably a little over two hours depending on the traffic," I reply as I mentally estimate the distance to the large city.
"I'm tired so I know you must be. Let's stop in . . . what's the city's name?" Serena asks as she shifts in her seat to face me.
I turn to answer and am dumbstruck by her beauty as the setting sun highlights her blonde hair and gives her an overall glowing appearance. I almost lose myself in those blue orbs.
"Um, Beaumont," is my stuttered reply as I work to regain my composure.
My eyes focus on a large billboard advertising 'Pappadeaux's Seafood,' and I give a quick thanks that the Pappas brothers have ventured out in this direction. Serena is in for a real treat.
The rest of the ride to Beaumont is filled with my culinary reviews of the restaurant, and if the growls coming from Serena's stomach are any indication of her desire to try out the eating establishment, I'd say she's more than ready.
A Holiday Inn is directly across from the restaurant so we decide to go ahead and get a room before eating. We once again request one room even though I'm pretty sure we no longer have to carry on with the girlfriends' charade. I would think we would know if someone was following us by now.
Once in the room, Serena plops down on the bed and says, "Thank God we're finally in Texas. I probably should have mentioned that I'm not a very good traveler, but at least we'll be in El Paso tomorrow."
"Er, Serena? You do realize we still have to drive another eight hundred miles until we reach El Paso, don't you?" I ask in an apologetic tone.
"Eight hundred miles! You're kidding me. How can that be? That's more than half the distance we've already covered, and we've been through eight states. You mean to tell me it will take two more days to get there?" Serena asks in disbelief.
"Well, if we leave by six a.m. and drive straight through without stopping to eat and assuming the traffic won't be a problem through Houston and San Antonio, I'd say we could get there sometime late tomorrow evening," I offer as a suggestion.
"I don't think I could sit in the car that long without going stir crazy. Let's talk about it over dinner," Serena replies as her stomach once again makes itself known.
Laughing, we walk out of the room and head to the restaurant, but not before Serena complains about the heat and humidity. By midday tomorrow, she'll probably be melting.
We enjoy a nice meal and decide to turn in early. We contemplate catching a movie at the Tinseltown theaters across the interstate, but we both decide we are too tired to do anything else.
In the room, I lay the map out on the bed and lie down next to it. Serena stretches out on the other side, and we try to figure out where we should stop tomorrow.
San Antonio isn't quite half way, but there doesn't seem to be much to choose from the rest of the way.
"We've been driving steadily for the last three days. Why don't we sleep in tomorrow and then make the drive to San Antonio? It should only take us five or six hours," I say as I trace along Interstate 10 from Beaumont to San Antonio.
Serena reaches over and traces the rest of the distance and agrees with my suggestion. Decision made, we both reach for the map at the same time and tingles shoot up my arm when our fingers meet. I think Serena felt it too because she pulled her hand back as if she's been shocked.
Our easy conversation becomes stilted as we prepare for bed, and I offer her the bathroom first while I lay my suitcase across the dresser. Wordlessly, we each go through our nightly ritual before climbing into our respective beds.
My last glimpse of Serena is to see her gorgeous legs slip under the cover. Well, at least I've got good dream material now.
The next morning we sleep in until nine and take our time checking out. We eat breakfast at the Waffle House across the interstate and finally get on the road around eleven. I'm going to enjoy not being in any hurry today.
Thankfully, there is no evidence of our 'little communication' problem from last night. When we got up, it was just as if we never realized that we may be attracted to each other; however, I have to admit I sneak peaks as often as I can get away with.
If the rest of this trip and the return trip go this well, I'm seriously considering asking her out once I figure out the problem of our logistics. I'd even be willing to try a long distance relationship if need be.
On the drive to San Antonio, we discover a bit more about each other. The obvious being an intolerance of bad drivers judging from the amount of cursing and 'finger waving' we each were guilty of as we drove through Houston. Of course when we finally got to the other side, we both admitted that perhaps we were a little rash in our actions.
As we check into our hotel, Serena asks, "Do you think anyone is following us? Olivia seems to think we need to be alert, but I haven't seen anything or anyone suspicious since we left New York."
"I agree, but let's go ahead and get one room just in case. Besides, we're already used to each other's snoring," I reply as I pull out my credit card.
"I don't snore!" Serena answers as the hotel clerk tries to keep from grinning. When we walk away, I make a point to turn and nod my head up and down at the now smiling clerk.
Since we plan to get up at the butt crack of dawn, we have an early dinner and retire to our room. Serena immediately puts on sleep t-shirt and lies on the bed on top of the covers.
Crossing her legs at the ankle, she flips through the channels, and I can't help but admire the lovely sight in front of me. If I can just keep the drooling to a minimum, maybe she won't notice my leering.
Later when Serena turns off the desk lamp, she makes a big production of uncrossing her legs and sliding to the edge of the bed before climbing under the covers. The grin she is sporting is a pretty good indication that I've been busted; however, I close my eyes and roll over to keep from looking guilty.
The next day, Serena wears a lightweight shirt tucked into a pair of shorts, a pair of very short shorts I might add. I guess her plan is to keep me on edge the rest of the trip.
We eat a quick bite in the hotel restaurant before checking out and filling up the car. I buy a few treats for the road, and Serena even purchases one of those Styrofoam coolers and ice to put our drinks in. Now we're set for the long haul to El Paso.
Considering Serena's choice of clothing, I find that I am relieved we'll be on a long boring stretch; otherwise, I'm sure I might be in danger of causing an accident every time I get a load of those gams. I never realized I was such a leg person until now.
Finally after eight long hours, I exit the interstate and turn left on the state highway indicated in Olivia's directions. Serena sits up in her seat and has suddenly come alive at the prospect of arriving at our destination.
Twenty minutes later, I turn down a private dirt road and drive very slowly to keep the dust from kicking up behind the car. I am one hundred percent sure that no one is following us, and I'm pretty sure we've never been followed, but I don't want anyone to be able to tell a car has been driving down this road.
A mile or so later, a ranch house comes into view complete with a wraparound porch. As I near the house, a rider appears from around the back.
I watch as the tall blonde directs the horse to the porch, and a border collie comes around the corner behind the horse. He or she immediately begins to bark at our car.
The rider gracefully dismounts and ties the reins to a nearby post before turning in our direction.
Oh man, she looks exactly the same, tall, blonde, and fit. I can even see her penetrating blue eyes from here as she looks at the car with trace of trepidation.
Serena doesn't seem afraid of the barking dog as she bolts from the car and makes a beeline for the unsuspecting rider, and I watch in amusement as the blonde is almost tackled by a running Serena.
The two of them hug each other and turn round and round in circles as the dog excitedly barks. Slowly, I climb out of the car and walk toward the crying women.
I wait for the two to finally let go of each other before I say a word.
"Hey, Alex. You're looking pretty damn good if I may say so myself," I say with a sly grin.
Now, it's my turn to almost be bowled over as the former Special Victims Unit ADA jumps into my arms.
Once inside, Serena and I take turns explaining Olivia's plan to Alex. Even though Valez has been murdered, Olivia doesn't want to take any chances with Alex's life. Agent Hammond is allowing Olivia to handle the security since the government feels there is no longer a threat and has officially withdrawn from the case.
"Alex, Serena and I are taking you to the airport tomorrow to fly to Connecticut. Olivia is going to meet you there. She was afraid she would be followed if she came to get you so she sent us instead."
Confused, Alex asks, "Tomorrow, but what about the ranch? And why is it suddenly okay for Olivia to meet me there and not here?"
"Alex, Olivia sent Abbie and me so that we could tie up any loose ends. She has taken every precaution to meet you in Connecticut, but she felt a trip to Texas would be too much of a red flag," Serena explains to her friend in a soft tone.
We talk well into the night and finally retire when none of us can keep from yawning. Serena bunks with Alex tonight, and I am feeling somewhat jealous. I know Alex only has eyes for Olivia, but damn it, she's sleeping in the same bed with Serena.
After we get Alex on that plane tomorrow, I plan to take advantage of this situation and stall as long as possible. Maybe I can use this ranch to my advantage since I know just about everything involved in running one.
If not, I can always take Serena to Austin. Surely, there's still some magic left in my hometown.
As I begin to drift off to sleep, I hear soft footsteps walk to my door, and the person hesitates before tiptoeing the rest of the way into the room. When the bed dips on the other side, I hold my breath.
Slowly, I turn over and look into Serena eyes as she smiles and puts her head on my shoulder. Closing her eyes, she moves her hand to my waist, and I place my hand over hers.
It looks like I won't be needing my hometown magic after all.
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