When they returned to Pappy’s Place, it was decided that Shen and Billy would stay in their wing while she healed. Shen was worried about the children seeing her bruised and battered face. It was decided that Ham would explain to the children that due to the COVID-19 guidelines, Shen and Billy had to stay in quarantine for at least two weeks. Only the adults knew what had happened.
While her bruises started disappearing, the scabs were replacing the bloody wounds and the swellings were reducing to nothing, Shen knew something still needed to be dealt with. Since their return, Billy had changed. He was ever attentive to her care and needs, but he seemed distant. In the morning before she would wake, he would be gone to his office. There he would stay until late into the evening, making calls and monitoring the COVID-19 and oil developments. At first Shen dismissed the change as his getting back to business. But this “distance” extended to their bed. Since their wedding she had gotten used to his passion and having him wrap his arms around her as they slept. Now that wasn’t happening. Perhaps he was worried that she was still in too much pain for such activity. Or, perhaps the memory of New Mexico was lying stealthily between them. By the third day, Shen decided it was time to address the issue. She was not going to let their love be a victim of the attack.
When he walked into the bedroom that evening, he found Shen sitting cross-legged on the floor.
“Is this some kind of Zen thing they do in Dallas?” he asked.
“No, I want you to sit down for a pow-wow.”
He didn’t get it. They had perfectly good chairs. Why the floor?
“I want us to be on the same level for this.”
She pointed to the place directly in front of her. “Sit.”
Obediently he took his position so their knees were touching. He didn’t know what she had in mind.
Shen was dead serious. “You said we would always be honest and trust each other. But since we’ve been back, you have been missing in action in this relationship. I let it go for a couple of days, but enough is enough, Billy Preston. Do you think I’m damaged goods? If so, we need to work this out because I love you too much to let this go.”
Stunned, Billy shook his head and looked down. How could she be so off base? “Shen, I’ve never been scared before… not like that. Seeing you hurt and hearing what you went through, I didn’t know how to handle it. I felt guilty, like I’d let you down. Since then I’ve been worried how you would feel about me even touching you. I’ve wanted to hold you and love you, but I didn’t know how you would react. Can you forgive me?”
Shen was shocked at his confession. But it all made sense. Billy was a man who had always been the protector, whether it was white-tailed deer or people. Now, the person whom he most treasured had not just been threatened, but brutalized. In his mind, he had failed her and himself.
“Forgive you for what? For not calling when you did? For not picking up on my SOS? For not keeping your cool on the phone? For not busting down the door as soon as possible? For not nearly beating that guy to death? Yes, that meth head scared both of us, but you were my hero. Not only did you save my life, you gave me a reason to fight back for us.”
Shen reached out as he crumbled into her arms. Yes, her injuries may have started to heal, but Billy’s were still raw and crippling him. Reassured by her words, Billy raised his head and took a deep breath. “You weren’t so bad yourself. First you told me your mom was coming to dinner. Then you nearly broke that guy’s windpipe.”
Smiling for the first time, he added, “I didn’t realize I had married such a little spitfire.”
Shen recognized that he was coming around and couldn’t resist. “Just think…somewhere in a New Mexico jail cell is a jerk who messed with the wrong Texas tag team. I only wish I had video of you whupping that guy up. It would have gone viral on YouTube.
“As for being worried about touching me, I’m afraid that I’ve sorta gotten hooked on your moves and am in need of a real fix. I recall that you’re pretty good at making out.”
Billy looked up, smiling at Shen. “I’m better than pretty good. I’m the best.”
“Then prove it.”
With that his fingers gently touching her face where the last few signs of the attack remained. He then uncrossed Shen’s legs and lifted her on to his lap. The scent of her hair, the twinkle in her eyes, the touch of her skin and the feel of her body were the greatest remedy for his pain. And then there was that smile.
He told her, “Open your hand.” She held her hand up. He kissed her open palm saying, “Thank you for saving us.”
Shen whispered, “It’s good to have you back.”
As Bertie placed the dinner tray outside their bedroom door, she could hear “Unchained Melody” playing and laughter. She knew things were going to be all right. The next morning the tray was still untouched.
… to be continued on Wednesday, July 15