Diving Into the Turn
By Carrie Carr
Disclaimers: This story has instances of women getting it on, sometimes a bit more graphically than I’m used to writing. Don’t blame me, it’s the characters fault <g>.
Also, this is a rough draft of the story – there are probably some nasty editing mistakes (since I didn’t have an editor while I was writing it), and there are scenes in the published version that aren’t here (they were written *during* the editing phase). This story was previously only found on my yahoo group chat list, firstname.lastname@example.org , where I also post the latest bits of my stories before being posted to the web. Check my website, www.carrielcarr.com for more details. I want to thank everyone on the list who cheered me on, especially since it took me almost two years to write this one.
I’d love to hear what you think – let me know at email@example.com .
SHELBY RETURNED TO the apartment to find Rebecca packing up the last of her personal effects. “Did you find a place?” She hoped the action meant Rebecca was successful in her pursuit.
“No.” Still angry at from the conversation with her mother, Rebecca slammed a book on top of an already full box.
Crossing the room, Shelby grabbed Rebecca's hands, afraid of the damage she would inflict on the inanimate objects. “What's wrong? We'll find you a place.”
“It's not that. I had an argument with my mother.”
“Anything I can help with?” Shelby asked. She led Rebecca over to the sofa and sat.
Rebecca looked everywhere except at Shelby. “No. I think it's something I'm going to have to handle myself, but thanks.” She noticed the pitifully few boxes scattered about, and realized she didn't have much to show for her life so far. “I guess I'll just have to stay in the trailer with you.”
Shit. I didn't want to tell her about it this way. “I'm afraid you can't.”
“Why not? I mean, I know it's small, but I'll be at work for a lot of the day, so I won't be in your way.”
“It's nothing like that. You could never be in my way, darlin'. It's just that I don't have the trailer any more. I sold it.”
Turning so she faced Shelby, Rebecca almost slid from the sofa. “You what? Why would you go and do a thing like that? Where are you going to live?”
Shelby stood and started to pace the room, almost afraid to look the other woman in the eye. “I spent the whole day trying to find a stable for Patches, and most of the places were so expensive, I was running out of hope.” She stopped when she reached the kitchen table and placed her hands on the back of a chair, gripping the wood tightly. “I ended up at the feed store, and talked to some old guys that were sitting around in the back.”
“I know who you mean. They're retired, and they meet there every day so they don't have to stay at home with their wives,” Rebecca related with a smile.
“Right. Anyway, I figured I didn't have much to lose, so I asked them if they knew of anyplace I could board a horse for a low price.” Shelby released her grip on the chair and started to pace again. “They sent me out to an old farm, not that far from where we are now.”
Rebecca frowned as she tried to think of the place Shelby was talking about. The only farm nearby that might fit the bill was, “The old Groves place?”
Shelby nodded. “Yeah. He's something else, isn't he?”
“You could say that again. I rode too close to his property once, and he threatened to shoot me.” Rebecca's eyes widened. “Are you trying to tell me that's where we're going to leave poor Patches? And why did you have to sell your trailer?”
“I'm getting to that.” Shelby sat next to Rebecca again in an attempt to calm the other woman. “He's really not a bad guy once you get to know him. Just lonely, I think.”
Rebecca shook her head. “Lonely or not, I don't know if I want my horse around that crazy old man.”
“But that's where selling my trailer comes in.” Shelby looked very proud of herself. “You're looking at the new owner of the Groves farm.”
“What?” If Rebecca hadn't been sitting down, she would have fallen to the floor. “You bought the place?”
Taking Rebecca's hands in her own, Shelby felt inordinately proud at that moment. “I did. Or at least, used what money I got for the trailer as a down payment. It was the best solution for all of us, really.”
“But how did you come up with the money? Oh, your trailer.” Rebecca realized what Shelby had given up. “But that had been your home your entire life.”
“And nothing in it worked, and there's no way either one of us could have lived in it without paying a lot of money to fix it up. Don't you see? Patches will have her own stable, and poor Mr. Groves can move into a retirement center like he wants to. Once I get the stables fixed up like I want them, we can start taking in boarders.” Shelby brought Rebecca close. “You should see that place. I don't think he's thrown anything away since before we were born.”
Rebecca enjoyed the feeling of being in Shelby's arms but was worried about what she heard. “It sounds like a lot of work.”
“It will be. But I think the end result will be worth it.”
“You're really something else, did you know that?” Rebecca asked, leaning forward and kissing Shelby. “Why do I think that you did this as much for him as you did for Patches?”
Shelby returned the kiss. “Land is always a good investment, Rebecca. And I'm not getting any younger.”
“Uh huh. My tough bull rider has turned into a softie.” Rebecca squealed when Shelby tickled her ribs.
“I'll show you who's tough,” Shelby promised, stretching out on the sofa and taking Rebecca with her.
“WHAT HAVE YOU gotten yourself into?” Rebecca asked Shelby, as they stood inside the old house. Mr. Grove had happily left them everything, except his bed and a few personal belongings. “This place would have to go up on the scale to be considered a dump.”
“You don't think it has a certain 'rustic charm'?” Shelby asked. “Seriously, this is why I thought you might be more comfortable staying with your family, at least until I can get part of the house fixed up.”
Rebecca sighed. “I pretty much already burned that bridge,” she admitted. “Besides, who's going to save you in case you get a snake bite?”
Shelby looked around the living area at the stacks of newspapers and magazines that covered the dusty furniture. “It's not that bad. A few drips to the recycling dumpster will take care of these.”
“And what about the bedroom?” They had found out, much too late, that the bedroom of the small house had a hole in the roof and ceiling, about the size of someone's foot. “It's a wonder that old man survived out here,” Rebecca exclaimed. “And let's not forget the plumbing in the bathroom.” Where the toilet used to be was just a hole, and the sink was propped up by a board from underneath. Rebecca was afraid of what was probably growing in the old claw-foot tub.
“I told you it was a fixer-upper.”
“Shelby, the kitchen doesn't have a sink!”
“Sure it does. It's just out back,” Shelby assured her. “Once I get Patches' stall fixed, I'll start on the house.”
Rebecca shook her head. “My horse is not staying in that lean-to! That barn could fall over at any minute. And I don't want you inside when it does.”
“It's not that bad.”
Walking over to Shelby and tapping her on the forehead, Rebecca spat out, “Hello? Is this thing on? Did you even look around before making an offer on this dump?”
Shelby felt some of her earlier elation deflate. “I had someone come out and inspect the house. They said that other from the obvious problems, it was sound. I figure I'm strong enough to do the work, and when I'm done, we'll have a decent place to lay our heads. What's so wrong with that?”
Rebecca suddenly felt very ashamed of her behavior. She realized that maybe it was Shelby's dream to own property, just as she had her own dreams. “I'm sorry.”
“No, you're right.” Shelby looked around the room in defeat. “I'm probably just fooling myself. I've bitten off a whole lot more than I can chew.”
“Not if you have help.”
“I can't ask you to do that.”
Rebecca stepped closer to her lover and put her arms around her. “You're not asking, I'm offering.” She turned slightly so that they were side by side, but still touching. “It'll take a lot of work, but I think we can do it.”
“You do, huh?”
“Yep.” Rebecca knew she had said the right thing when she felt Shelby's arm around her tighten and squeeze.
SHELBY'S FIRST CONCERN was the barn, since without it, Patches had no protection against the elements. Although one wall of the structure did need serious work, the majority of the barn was in good shape. She spent a full day on tearing apart and rebuilding the wall until she was satisfied with the result.
From the outside, a difference could already be seen, as the barn was now level. It was almost dusk when Rebecca stepped out of the house, and she was shocked at what she saw. No longer a complete eyesore, most of the boards were now in place. She walked down to the barn and looked inside, where Shelby was putting the finishing touches on Patches stall. “I can't believe you got all this done in one day.”
Shelby looked up from her work and smiled. She was covered with dirt and grime, and her once-white tee shirt was liberally streaked with brown and gray, and a few other colors that were hard to distinguish in the fading light. “It wasn't that hard, really. Just a few nails.”
“Right. Like I believe that.” Rebecca herself was tired from working inside the house, but Shelby looked positively exhausted. “Why don't we go into town and stay in a motel for the evening? The bathroom still needs work, and I think we could both use a nice hot shower.”
Although a part of her wanted to stay in her new house the first night, exhaustion and good sense won out over pride. “That's the best idea I've heard all day.” Shelby tossed the old hammer she had been using into a wooden crate that doubled as a tool box. The former owner had left all his tools behind, citing that he wouldn't need them to chase the widow women around in the retirement home. He had been just as excited about the prospect of leaving as Shelby was about staying. She brushed her hands down her thighs to remove at least the first layer of dirt. “I'll even buy you dinner.”
Rebecca laughed. “Hopefully you're talking about a drive-thru somewhere. I don't believe either one of us will be welcomed anywhere else.” Her own work in the house left her just as filthy as her friend. It had taken Rebecca all day to gather up all the empty food cans and newspapers, and now they were bundled up and in the bed of Shelby's truck. They planned on dropping them off at a recycling center on their way to the motel. Both took a clean change of clothes with them as they left the farm in the truck.
SHELBY STEPPED OUT of the bathroom, one towel wrapped around her body, while she used another to dry her hair. She could see that Rebecca hadn't bothered to put on clothes after her shower, either. The other woman was in one of the motel chairs, also clad in a towel.
“Feel better?” Rebecca asked. Her hair was damp, and the dark red strands fell to her shoulders. She pointed to the table she was sitting next to. “I hope you don't mind that I started without you.”
“That's fine.” Shelby took the other chair, barely getting seated before attacking her hamburger and French fries. “Mmm,” she moaned, “I didn't realize how hungry I was.” She practically inhaled the food, slowing down only to take sips from her drink.
Rebecca ate almost as quickly. She finished before Shelby, and tossed her empty wrapper into the nearby trash can. “Two points,” she cheered.
“Nope. I'm actually a fairly decent basketball player.” Rebecca wadded up more paper and threw it toward the trash can. “See? Two for two. Did you think that all I did was ride horses all the time?”
Shelby wasn't too sure how she was supposed to answer that question. “To tell you the truth, I never really thought about it.” She popped the final bite of burger into her mouth and chewed, then swallowed before continuing. “So you're not only a damned good barrel racer, but you play basketball. What else should I know about you?”
“Oh, I don't know. Why don't you ask some questions, and I'll answer them?”
“That sounds fair.” Shelby wiped her mouth with a paper napkin, then wadded it up in her empty wrapper. She turned and tossed it at the trash bin, but missed. “Shit.”
Rebecca tried to keep from laughing. “And you were closer, too.”
“You could have practically dropped it in from where you are sitting,” Rebecca continued to tease. “Thank goodness you're a good bull rider.”
Shelby stood and went over to where the paper lay on the floor. She bent to pick it up, and a loud whistle came from behind her. Spinning around, she saw a grinning Rebecca. “Liked what you saw, did you?”
Rebecca stood, but before she could move, Shelby charged her and they both ended up on the bed, Rebecca on bottom. Shelby grinned down at her lover. “That'll teach you to whistle at me.”
“Are you kidding? I've got you right where I want you.” Rebecca wrapped her arms around Shelby's shoulders and pulled her closer. Their lips met softly at first, then with more urgency. She felt her towel fall away, and didn't even realize she was nude with the lights on until she saw the look of affection on Shelby's face.
“Has anyone told you how absolutely beautiful you are, Rebecca?” Shelby put all her weight on one hand, while she traced a light pattern down Rebecca's neck and chest. “Absolutely perfect.” Her attention caused both nipples to tighten, and she gently took one in her mouth.
Rebecca moaned and tangled her hands in Shelby's hair, trying to pull her closer. When Shelby sucked hard, Rebecca could swear that she melted on the spot. “God, Shelby. Please,” she begged, wanting more.
Shelby continued to suck on Rebecca's breasts, while her free hand continued its path down her soft belly. When she found how wet Rebecca was, she moaned also. Using her fingers to stroke her lover, Shelby persisted her attack on Rebecca's chest. Feeling that Rebecca was close, she sucked hard, and was rewarded by hearing her named gasped out loud. She rolled over to one side and pulled Rebecca into her arms and held her close. “I've got you,” she whispered to the trembling woman. “It's okay, baby. I'm here.” She looked down at Rebecca, who was already falling asleep. I've fallen hard for you, Rebecca Starrett. And that scares me more than riding any bull ever could.
REBECCA WOKE TO an empty bed. She looked around the motel room for any sign of Shelby, but found she was alone. Taking her time, she showered then dressed. She was just tying her sneakers when the motel room door opened, and in walked Shelby carrying a bag. “Good morning.”
“Good morning to you, too, darlin'.” Shelby put the bag on the small table. “How'd you sleep?”
“Very well, thanks to you. What's in the bag?”
“Breakfast. I don't know about you, but I was starving when I woke up.” Shelby winked and started pulling things from the bag. By the time she was done, they both had coffee, and egg and bacon or sausage sandwiches. “I wasn't sure what you preferred, so I got both bacon and sausage.”
Rebecca took one of the wrapped sandwiches and opened it. “I like both, thanks.”
The two women quieted while they ate. Shelby was the first to finish, and she tossed her wrapper at the trash can, happily surprised when it went in. “Ta-da!” She waved her hands in the air. “Thank you, thank you,” she said to her imaginary audience, while Rebecca looked on and shook her head.
“Lucky shot.” Rebecca couldn't help but throw Shelby's words back at her.
“Nope. That was total skill.” Shelby glanced down at her watch. “I guess we'd better finish this up, so you can get to work. Do you want me to just drop you off, and then pick you up this afternoon? I don't know if we have time to go get your car, or not.”
“If you're sure it's not too much trouble, I'd love a ride.” When Shelby grinned at her, Rebecca blushed at what she had said. “Stop that.”
“What? You're the one that said it.”
Rebecca rubbed her face with one hand. “Did you say something about taking me to work? I think we'd better leave, now.” Before I forget I have a job, and throw you down on that bed and have my way with you.
They gathered up their dirty clothes from the night before and placed them in a plastic bag. “I'll wash these, and any others, if you want,” Shelby volunteered. “I have to do my laundry, anyway.” She had spied a laundry while she was getting breakfast, and decided that her usual chores would have to take precedence over working on the new property.
“You don't have to do my clothes. I can just take them over to my parents' and do them over there.” But Rebecca thought it was incredibly sweet of Shelby to offer.
“It's no trouble. I normally don't have enough clothes for full loads.”
Rebecca moved closer until she was inches away from Shelby. “Do you know how wonderful you are?” she asked, encircling the other woman's waist with her arms. “You're going to spoil me if you're not careful.”
Shelby looked into Rebecca's eyes and saw the depth of her emotion. “You deserve to be spoiled. I just wish there was more I could do for you.”
“You do plenty.” Rebecca leaned forward and kissed Shelby. They broke apart slowly, both breathing heavily. “I wish we had more time this morning.”
“Me too, darlin'. But I don't want you to lose your job.” Shelby kissed Rebecca again, this time more slowly. They both swayed for a moment, until Shelby was finally able to step back. There was so much she wanted to say, yet she didn't know how. “Rebecca, I—” The light touch of Rebecca's fingers on her lips silenced her.
“I know.” Afraid of her own feelings, Rebecca didn't want to hear what Shelby was about to say. They had already proclaimed their love for one another, but it was quickly moving past those feelings. We haven't known each other long enough for that. I can't be this in love with her this soon. She looked deep into the brown eyes close to hers. But God help me, I think I am.
REBECCA WAS BUSY marking down a rack of western shirts when her assistant manager Katie tapped her on the shoulder.
“You have a phone call on line three. I think it's your mother.”
“Thanks.” Rebecca hurried over to a nearby phone and picked up the receiver. “This is Rebecca.”
“Becca? Honey, I'm sorry to bother you at work, but I need to talk to you. Can we meet for lunch?” Kathy didn't sound bad, but she did seem upset about something.
Rebecca looked at her watch. She was due for her lunch break in twenty minutes. “Sure. The usual place? Around twelve-thirty?”
Kathy expelled a heavy breath. “That's perfect. Thank you, sweetheart.”
“No problem, Mom. Is there anything you can talk to me about now? I'm not that busy.”
“I really don't want to get into it over the phone. Twelve-thirty is soon enough. I'll see you then.” Kathy hung up before they could exchange any more words.
Rebecca looked at the dead receiver in her hand and sighed.
Katie, who had lurked nearby, stepped forward. “Is everything all right? Do you need to leave early today?”
Thinking about what she could do if she left early, Rebecca still had to shake her head. “No, I don't think it's serious. Just my mom being melodramatic.”
“Isn't that what Moms are good at?”
“Mine sure is,” Rebecca agreed. “We're talking gold medal holder, at the very least.”
Katie laughed. “Guess that gives mine the silver.” She took an extra marker out of her pocket. “Why don't I help you get this rack done? Then we can finish putting out the latest shipment of jeans.”
“Sounds good to me.” Rebecca liked having someone else help her with the tedious work. It made it go by faster, and she enjoyed the company. And it will make the time fly until I get to see Shelby again.
THE OBJECT OF Rebecca's thoughts was busy as well. Shelby finished her laundry in record time, and was now back at the farm to work on the house. There were several things she wanted to have done before Rebecca got off work, and she knew she'd need the entire afternoon to accomplish the jobs.
She had found the toilet behind the house, covered in what she hoped was mud. Unable to pick it up easily, Shelby went to her truck and grabbed a length of rope, then wrapped it around the porcelain. It was much easier to drag the item than to carry it, although the back steps stopped her cold. “Now what?” She looked around the yard and was happy to see several old boards stacked by a tree.
After making her ramp, Shelby dragged the toilet up the boards, cursing when the old wood broke when the lavatory was on the middle step. She kicked at it, then cursed again when the action hurt her foot. “Dammit all to hell! Stupid piece of shit!” Without thinking, she bent down and picked the whole thing up, placing it on the porch without any problem.
“Well, hell.” Surprised at her own strength, Shelby looked down at the offending item and scratched her head. She grabbed the rope once again, and pulled the toilet into the house and down the short hallway to the bathroom.
Realizing her plumbing skills were practically non-existent, Shelby decided she'd better go into town and get a book on the subject. “Maybe two,” she said out loud, remembering the kitchen.
THE RESTAURANT WASN'T overly crowded, even for lunch time, and Rebecca easily saw the table her mother sat at. She walked over and after kissing the older woman on the cheek, plopped down into the chair across from her. “Hi, Mom.”
“Hello, Becca. I'm so glad you could make it.” Kathy nervously fiddled with her water glass, and was relieved when the waiter came over immediately to take their order. “I'll have the number four special.”
He looked at Rebecca. “And for you, Miss?”
“Bring me the number two, and hold the onions, please. And a glass of iced tea.” Rebecca handed him her menu, which she barely looked at. As this was her favorite lunchtime retreat, she knew the menu by heart. She waited until the waiter left to turn in the order before speaking. “What's the big mystery, Mom? Is everything okay at home?”
Kathy looked down at the table. “Things are a bit strained at home. It's your brother.”
“Terry? What's wrong with him?”
“He's suddenly turned very angry, Becca. His grades have already dropped drastically, and he's been coming home drunk at night. Your father and I are both terribly worried about him. We thought that maybe you might be able to help.”
Rebecca had a fairly good idea what Terry's problem was, and she knew that she would only make it worse. “I don't think—”
“He worships you. He always has. Maybe if you could just come over and talk to him, everything would be okay.” Kathy watched as a bead of condensation worked its way down her water glass. “He and your father got into a really nasty argument last night, and I was afraid they'd hit each other.”
“What was the fight about?”
Kathy mumbled something unintelligible as the waiter set down Rebecca's drink.
“You.” Kathy looked up with tears in her eyes. “They were fighting about you.”
Rebecca almost choked on the drink of tea she had taken. “Me?”
“I know, it's ridiculous. But your brother thinks that Shelby has 'led you astray', his words, not mine. Your father told him it was none of our business, and we should just be glad that you're happy. Terry didn't see it that way.”
“And you think that by me talking to Terry, he'll change his mind? I don't know, Mom. I think it might just make things worse.”
Kathy sighed. “I just don't know what else to do. Your father threatened to kick Terry out of the house, if he didn't straighten up.”
Rebecca felt the weight of her family's problems hit squarely on her shoulders. She knew that her brother wouldn't be acting this way if he hadn't caught her and Shelby together. Maybe if I had just talked to him first, before he found out, things would have turned out differently. “No promises, but I'll see what I can do, okay?”
“Thank you, Becca. I knew I could count on you.” Kathy smiled at the server who placed her plate in front of her. She suddenly felt hungry.
Looking at her plate, Rebecca felt just the opposite. She just hoped she could get through the meal without throwing up.
THE HOME IMPROVEMENT store was new to the town, and therefore very popular. Shelby had to drive around the lot several times before she found a parking space, and even then it wasn't very close to the front doors. She looked down at her grubby clothes, and hoped that the people inside wouldn't be too offended.
The men back at the feed store had recommended it, and they weren't put off by her appearance. So, Shelby assumed that she'd be okay. They had all gotten a good laugh at her story of moving of the commode, and Claude had made a bawdy joke at her expense, which she enjoyed. She thanked the men and now here she was, parked outside the store.
Stepping inside, she waited for a moment while her eyes adjusted to the difference in the light. It looked like a huge warehouse, with everything from light bulbs to lumber. Shelby strolled over to the help desk where two women were talking, both wearing aprons with the store's logo on front. “Excuse me. Do you have any books on plumbing?”
The younger of the two women gave Shelby a quick once-over and wrinkled her nose. “We have several self-help books over here to the right, and I believe most of them have chapters on plumbing.”
“Thanks.” Shelby ignored the fact the woman was so rude, and walked over to where the books were. She saw over half a dozen books for working around the house, and wondered which one would be best. She didn't have to think long, because the older woman came around the counter and picked up one of the books.
“This one covers just about everything there is to know about plumbing, as well as other household chores. Are you remodeling your house?”
Shelby looked into the friendly woman's eyes. “Yes, ma'am. I just bought a place that's a real fixer upper.” She hefted the book, which weighed several pounds. “Thanks for the advice. I want to try and do as much of the work as I can myself.”
The woman smiled. “That's admirable.” She pulled a card from her apron pocket. “But if you get stuck, give my husband a call. He's a professional handyman, and just tell him Marge recommended you.”
“Thanks, Marge. I really appreciate that.” Shelby tucked the card into her jeans pocket and went to check out, wanting to return to the house and get back to work as soon as possible.
REBECCA STOOD OUTSIDE the closed western wear store, wondering where her ride was. Before she could worry any more, Shelby's truck tore into the parking lot and skidded to a stop in front of her.
The driver of the truck apologized through the open window, “I'm sorry I was late. I wanted to get a shower before I picked you up.” Shelby's hair was still wet. She leaned over and opened the door for Rebecca, who climbed into the truck with a bemused look on her face.
“You weren't that late. I'd only been standing there for a couple of minutes at the most.” Rebecca fastened her seat belt. “And I really appreciate you taking the extra time,” she teased.
“Yeah, well, it was either that, or you'd probably want to ride in the back. And I'd rather have you up here with me.” Shelby grimaced at how she sounded. Pathetic. She looked over at Rebecca, who wore a huge smile on her face. But then again, maybe it was the right thing to say. “How was your day?”
Now it was Rebecca's turn to grimace. “Work went okay, but I had lunch with my Mom.”
“Is she giving you a hard time about us?” Putting the truck in gear, Shelby drove more carefully out of the parking lot.
“No, it's not that.”
Shelby continued to drive in silence, deciding that Rebecca would tell her if she wanted her to know. She took in the scenery of the small town while she drove, thinking to herself that it wouldn't be a bad place to put down roots, if she was so inclined. Her first thought when she bought the Groves place was to fix it up and let someone, preferably Rebecca, rent it. Now she had begun to think that maybe she should stay. Her thoughts were interrupted by Rebecca.
“It's Terry. He's been acting really out of character since he found out about us. Mom wants me to talk to him.” Rebecca looked out her window and stared at the passing scenery. She hated being put in the middle. Her brother, being the youngest, was even more spoiled as a child than she was.
“Are you going to?”
“I don't want to, because I think it's going to just make things worse. But I told her that I'd try.” Rebecca felt close to tears, and all she wanted to do was curl up somewhere and have a good cry.
Shelby could feel Rebecca's distress, and she looked around for a place to park the truck. Finally seeing an empty church parking lot, she wheeled the vehicle in and turned off the engine. She unclipped her seat belt and held out her arms. “Come here, sweetheart.”
Not having to be asked twice, Rebecca slid across the long bench seat and snuggled up against her lover's chest. Finally feeling safe and secure, she let her tears fall.
AFTER REBECCA GOT herself under control, the two of them went to dinner. Once they both had their fill, Rebecca decided to try and talk to her brother. They were in the truck, on the way back to the farm so that Rebecca could pick up her car.
“Are you sure you don't want me to go with you?” Shelby asked. She had already been turned down twice before, but didn't want Rebecca to be alone when she faced her brother. Especially if the little toad's been drinking. She knew all too well what alcohol could do to a person.
“I'm sure.” Rebecca reached over and squeezed Shelby's arm. “This is something I really have to handle on my own. “But I won't mind meeting up with you afterward.”
Shelby nodded. “Of course. I'll be at the same motel, hopefully the same room. Will that work?”
“That will be perfect.”
They finished the trip in silence, and it wasn't long before Shelby parked the truck beside Rebecca's little car. Both women exited the vehicle at the same time, and met by the car's driver's door. Shelby held out her arms and Rebecca immediately rushed into them. “Now you remember,” Shelby murmured, “that I'm close by.”
“I will.” Rebecca squeezed Shelby harder. “I don't want to do this.”
“Then don't.” Shelby stepped back just far enough so that she could look into Rebecca's eyes. “He's a grown man acting like a child. Maybe he should get a dose of tough love from your folks.”
Rebecca frowned. “Are you saying that you think he should be kicked out of the house? I don't think he'd be able to work a full time job and go to school full time, too.”
“I just think it's time he stood on his own two feet. He's obviously had everything hand fed to him. It's actually crueler to keep babying him.”
Feeling a little sick, Rebecca backed farther away from Shelby. “You want my parents to kick him out of the house and just sit back and watch him fall flat on his face? Just how is that good for him?”
Shelby noticed the distance Rebecca put between the two of them and it made her heart hurt. “All I'm saying is that maybe it's time for Terry to act his age. And I think it's time for your parents to take that responsibility, instead of placing it all on your shoulders.”
“Oh? So suddenly you’re the expert where families are concerned?” Rebecca saw the hurt look cross Shelby's face, before it was hidden by stoic indifference. “Oh, Shelby. I didn't mean—”
“No, you're right. I have no room to talk.” Shelby turned and walked toward the old farmhouse, fighting the urge to run. She ignored Rebecca's calls, and only when she was in the house and heard Rebecca's car drive away, did she allow her tears to fall.
REBECCA DROVE TO town with tears streaking her face. She hated herself for what she had said to Shelby, who had only been trying to help. She had thought about following the other woman into the house, but was afraid of the confrontation. So, she did what she usually did – she ran. Rebecca still wasn't sure if she was going to talk to Terry or not, or if she was going to follow Shelby's advice. “She did have a point. He does need to quit being such a baby about everything.”
When she pulled up to her parent's house, she was dismayed to see her brother's car parked in the driveway. “I guess there goes that excuse.” Rebecca got out of her car then climbed the steps to the front door. Hearing loud voices, she hurriedly opened the door and went inside.
“As long as you live under this roof, you will obey our rules,” Greg yelled, his face red. “Your coming and going at all hours disrupts the entire household, and you will stop.”
Terry was standing barely a foot away, his hands clenched at his sides. “I'm a grown man, and you can't tell me when I can come home.”
“There's no reason for you to be out after midnight. That curfew has always been fine for you and your sister—”
“Don't bring that dyke's name into it, Dad. She's not,” Terry paused when he saw Rebecca looking on. “Speak of the devil.”
Greg took a breath and turned to see what his son was talking about. “Becca? Hi, honey.” He walked over and enveloped her in a hug. “I'm so glad to see you.”
“He's the only one,” Terry commented with a sneer.
“Terry, watch your mouth,” Greg warned. He kept one arm around Rebecca. “To what do we owe this unexpected visit?” he asked his daughter.
Mom didn't tell him? Oh, boy. This really ought to be fun. “I thought that I'd come over and talk with Terry. It seems like we haven't had enough time together lately.”
Terry flopped down on the sofa then crossed his arms over his chest. “That's probably because you've spent all your time with your little girlfriend.”
Before Greg could speak, Rebecca moved to sit on the coffee table across from Terry. “Okay, I think I've had just about enough of your shitty attitude. What is it? Is it the fact that I'm gay that bothers you? Or do you not like Shelby? What has your underwear in a knot, little brother?”
Terry's eyes widened. His sister never talked to anyone like this. She was usually the quiet one. “I, uh—”
“When are you going to quit acting that the world revolves around you? I know it seemed like it, but that time is over.” Rebecca leaned forward and placed her hands on his knees. “You're my brother and I love you. But I love Shelby, too. And she's not going anywhere.”
“You really do love her?” Greg asked, quietly. He had hoped it was just a phase his daughter was going through. Now he guessed it wasn't.
Rebecca turned to look at her father. “Yes, I do. Will that be a problem for you, too?”
“No.” Greg went over and sat in his chair, near the sofa. “All I want is for you to be happy. If Shelby can make you happy, then that's fine by me. It may take me a while to get completely used to it, though.”
“That's okay.” Rebecca turned her attention back to her brother. “What about you?”
“I still don't like it,” Terry snapped. “You weren't gay before you went to the rodeo. It's all her fault.”
Reaching toward her brother, Rebecca said, “That's not true. I've always been gay, it just took my time at the rodeo to help me understand that.”
Terry pushed her hands away. “Don't touch me!”
Rebecca leaned back, hurt by his outburst. “I'm still the same person I've always been.”
“No, you're not. You've changed,” he accused. “All you can think about is her.”
Greg had heard enough. “Becca, why don't you go see your mother? I think she's in the kitchen.” His need to protect his daughter overrode his love for his son.
Give big points to Dad. “Okay. But call me if you need anything, all right?”
“We sure will,” Greg assured her.
SHELBY LOOKED AROUND the old house, the light coming in through the windows enough to see by. She wiped at her eyes angrily, mad at herself for getting so upset over a few simple words.
In the kitchen, she saw the bucket and other cleaning supplies that Rebecca had left behind, which caused her to tear up again. “Dammit,” she yelled, running her arm across the countertop and scattering everything. Her back to the cabinets, she slid down until she was sitting on the floor. She thought back to the argument with Rebecca.
She's right. With my family history, I had no reason to try and tell her what to do with hers. Shelby looked around the kitchen, noticing for the first time how much work Rebecca put into it. She hadn't realized it when she was in earlier, putting the sink back where it belonged. “Why should I care what she thinks, anyway?” Because you love her completely, her mind suggested. “No. That can't be. We haven't known each other long enough.” Shelby stood and decided to work on getting the bedroom in better shape, next.
The bedroom was a mess. A dilapidated dresser stood against one wall, its matching chest of drawers on the wall next to it. Where the bed used to be was a pile of junk, mostly empty food cans and newspapers. A chirping sound caused Shelby to look up, where she saw the foot-wide hole in the ceiling, and a bird staring down at her as if she were in his house.
The roof would have to be fixed before anything else, Shelby decided. She left the room and went back to the living room, where earlier she had left the tool box. She took the hammer and a handful of nails, and went back outside. There was still enough sunlight, so she took the old ladder she used in the barn and climbed to the roof of the house, with a load of shingles over one shoulder.
Carefully she navigated the creaky roof, until she was directly over the hole. “This shouldn't be too hard to fix.” Standing up, she started to walk back over to the ladder where she had left the shingles, when her foot went through the roof, and she started to fall.
A SHORT TIME later at the farm, Rebecca parked her car behind Shelby's truck. She climbed out of her car and looked around, not seeing Shelby anywhere. “Shelby!” she yelled, walking up to the front door. When she didn't get an answer, she opened the door and peeked inside. “Are you in here?” A muffled sound coming from the bedroom caught her attention, so Rebecca headed in that direction. The room was dark and spooky, and Rebecca could barely see in front of her. “Shelby?”
“Up here,” a tired voice directed.
Rebecca took a few more cautious steps into the room and ran into something hanging from the ceiling. She screamed and tried to run backwards, only to fall on her rear.
“Rebecca? I could use a little help here,” Shelby yelled, hanging part in, part out of the bedroom ceiling. The roof had given way just enough for her to fall through, and she had been stopped by her armpits. She couldn't wriggle free without some help, as the wood was splintered around her just well enough to trap her.
“Shelby?” Rebecca got to her feet and looked around the room, then saw Shelby's legs dangling from the ceiling. “What are you doing up there?”
“Just hanging around,” Shelby snapped. “Could you please come around outside and help me get out of here? I've been like this for hours.”
“Okay, just hold on.” Rebecca cringed to herself when she said it, and she was certain that Shelby wasn't too happy about it, either. She went around to the side of the house and slowly climbed the ladder, glad the full moon was giving them enough light to see by. Seeing her lover trapped made her voice shaky. “What can I do?”
Shelby had never been so glad to see someone in her life. Her arms hurt like crazy, and she could feel scratches down both of her sides from falling through the roof. “Use the hammer,” she pointed to where it had fallen out of her reach, “and make the hole bigger so I can slide the rest of the way through.”
“Are you sure that's safe? You could hurt yourself falling—”
“There's not much of a better option at this point. I don't think this old roof will hold both of us.” Shelby was tired and achy. “Please, Rebecca. I know you probably don't care for my opinions on a lot of things, but please let's just do this my way, okay?”
Rebecca nodded. “Okay.” She tried to hammer the area around Shelby, but was not putting much force in her blows.
“You're going to have to really slam that thing down, darlin'.” Shelby fought back a groan when a piece of the board gave way and dug into her rib. “That's it.”
“And for the record,” Rebecca kept beating on the old wood, “I'm sorry about today. You were right.” Her hits were getting harder. “Terry is acting like a spoiled brat. Dad almost threw him out of the house again tonight.”
Finally enough of the wood was away from her body so that Shelby could drop down into the bedroom below. “That's good.” When Rebecca kept slamming the wood, Shelby started to reach for the hammer, but her body slipped. “Stop, Rebecca.”
But Rebecca didn't listen, she kept going. “He kept going on and on about it being your fault that I'm a lesbian! Have you ever heard such a ridiculous thing? I wanted to smack him for that.” She didn't even notice when Shelby disappeared through the hole. “As if I'm not mature enough to make my own decisions. Especially when I'm older than he is.” She stopped and looked around. “Shelby?”
“I'm down here,” Shelby hollered from the bedroom. “Be careful coming down. I'm going to have to replace the whole roof, I think.”
Rebecca backed up and stepped down the ladder, glad to be on solid ground again. She was met on the front porch by Shelby, who held her arms around herself. “Are you okay?”
“Just some scratches, I think.”
“Let's go back to the motel, and I'll take a look at them,” Rebecca offered.
Shelby followed Rebecca to the car. “You don't have to. I'm sure a little soap and water will take care of them just fine.”
“Maybe so, but I'll feel better once I check you over.” Rebecca felt guilty for Shelby having been in the situation to begin with. If we wouldn't have argued, then maybe she wouldn't have tried to fix the roof on her own.
“All right.” Shelby climbed in the passenger side of the car. “Thanks for coming out to get me. I wasn't sure if I was going to see you tonight, or not.”
Rebecca had gotten in behind the wheel and started the car. “I was worried when you weren't at the motel. This was the only place I could think of that you'd be.”
“Well, thanks for coming. I was beginning to think I'd hang there all night.”
“That wouldn't have happened. I would have come looking for you, sooner or later.”
Shelby smiled. “I'm just glad it was sooner.”
ONCE THEY CHECKED into the motel, Rebecca pushed Shelby toward the shower. “Go get cleaned up, then I'll take a look at your 'scratches'.” She could see blood seeping through Shelby's shirt, and had a pretty good idea that the injuries were more painful that Shelby let on.
“Yes, ma'am.” Shelby followed Rebecca's advice, and a short time later, stepped out of the steaming bathroom with a towel around her hips, leaving her upper body bare. “Is this what you wanted?”
You have no idea, Rebecca thought. She cleared her throat. “Why don't you lie down on the bed, and I'll fix you up.” They had stopped at a pharmacy on the way to the motel and picked up a few medical supplies, since neither knew the extent of the “scratches” that Shelby had acquired.
Shelby followed Rebecca's advice, and was soon sprawled out on the bed, face down. “I think the worst of them are on my back – at least that where it stung the most when I was in the shower.”
Rebecca struggled to keep her libido in check as she stared up Shelby's bare legs to where the towel partially covered her rear. Take care of the scratches, take care of the scratches, she chanted to herself, trying to ignore the tight ass so close to her. Then she saw the scratches. “Oh, Shelby. Your poor back.” There were several deep scrapes below Shelby's shoulder blades, and a few more along her ribs. None of them looked as if they'd need professional medical attention, but Rebecca felt better by slathering them with antibiotic ointment.
For her part, Shelby lay perfectly still and allowed Rebecca to work, even though each touch brought renewed pain to the burning areas. She put her face down in the pillow she had been hugging and allowed the tears to fall, trying to keep silent.
“There, all done.” Rebecca tossed the gauze pad away that she had used to spread the ointment, and had covered the worst of the scratches with gauze and tape. She leaned down and placed a light kiss above Shelby's shoulder. “Are you okay?”
Shelby raised her head and wiped at her face. “Yeah. That just stung a little more than I expected.” She rolled over and into a sitting position, the towel that hung around her neck barely covering her breasts. “Thanks for taking care of those for me.”
“You're welcome.” Rebecca was trying hard not to stare at Shelby's nipples, which had hardened in the cool room. She knew she failed, by the smirk she received. “What?”
“See something you like?” Although the movement was painful, Shelby leaned back against the headboard and raised her arms over her head. “It's a bit chilly in here, don't you think?”
Rebecca could only nod. Her mouth practically watered at the sight of Shelby's breasts.
Shelby wriggled a bit, causing the towel around her waist to fall away. She slid one foot up until she was entirely open for Rebecca's perusal. “You still with me, darlin'?”
“Oh, I'm definitely with you,” Rebecca growled, scooting up the bed until she was hovered above Shelby's face. She leaned down and kissed the other woman with an intensity that left them both breathless.
Shelby pulled at Rebecca's top, trying to get it over her head as they continued to kiss. They broke apart long enough to take the tee shirt off. “You've still got too many clothes on.”
Rebecca ignored her, and instead started kissing her way down Shelby's neck. She sucked on the pulse point until Shelby groaned for mercy, then continued the trail toward her lover's breast. As her mouth found its target, her hand drifted downward and was pleased with how vocal Shelby could be. “That's it, baby. Let me hear you,” she urged, taking her mouth away from its prize long enough to speak.
Shelby almost flew off the bed when Rebecca touched her. She grabbed Rebecca's head and held it close to her, calling out her name within moments. Unable to speak after the intensity of her orgasm, Shelby sat against the headboard, holding Rebecca and slightly trembling. “Damn, you're good at that,” she finally whispered.
“Thanks. It's easy to be good at something that you enjoy doing,” Rebecca quipped. She got up from her position and sat next to Shelby on the bed. “Are you okay?”
“I'm better than okay. I guess I was revved up more than I thought. That was incredible.” Shelby turned to look into Rebecca's eyes, and saw love reflected back to her. “I love you, Rebecca.”
Rebecca raised her hands to cradle Shelby's face. “I love you, too.”
REBECCA FOLDED THE jeans precisely, stacking them on top of another pair. She had been at the repetitive job for over an hour, and was ready to scream. Normally she didn't mind the small details of her job, but today she would have rather stayed in bed with a frisky lover who caused her to be a few minutes late, as it was. It seemed as if all the stress from the last week only inspired their lovemaking, until they were both exhausted from the near all night activities. She was thinking back to the look on Shelby's face when she was in the throes of passion, when a voice behind her caused her to drop the jeans she was folding.
“I'd ask about what was on your mind, but I'm about halfway afraid of the answer,” Greg Starrett commented.
“Dad! What a wonderful surprise.” Rebecca stopped what she was doing and embraced her father. “What brings you down here? Is anything the matter?”
Greg took a moment to study his daughter. There was a happy glow about her, and he had a pretty good idea what, or who, was the reason for it. “Does something have to be wrong for me to come see you? Since you've moved out of Lockneer's stable apartment, I really didn't know how to get a hold of you.” He conveniently forgot about the cell phone his daughter carried, wanting an excuse to see Rebecca.
“Oh. Well, I've been staying in the Rounder Motel out on highway six. But I'm hoping to find another place real soon. We've been working really hard on the house that Shelby bought.” Although the bull rider hadn't asked her, Rebecca was hoping that she'd be invited to move in once the house was ready.
He hadn't missed the use of “we” that Rebecca had used. As much as he wanted to be progressive, there was still something about his daughter being a lesbian that was hard for Greg. “I see. Well, one of the reasons I came by was to take you to lunch, if you haven't already made plans.”
Rebecca checked her watch. “No, I'm free. As a matter of fact, I should be getting my lunch break any time, now.” She looked around until she could see Katie. “Let me go ask my boss, and then we can go.”
A few minutes later, Rebecca and her father walked across the street from the western wear store to a small restaurant that specialized in “home cooked meals.” Considering how much grease was usually involved, Rebecca didn't think it was like any home cooking she'd ever had, but it was close to work and they could spend all their time together visiting, not looking for a place to eat. They sat at a table by the front windows, waiting patiently for the harried waitress to take their order. She did, and quickly brought them their drinks.
“So, you said Shelby bought a house?” Greg looked around at the clientele of the restaurant. There were mostly blue collar workers, with a few women who looked like office personnel scattered about. “She didn't seem to me to be the type to settle down.”
“Well, she bought an old place that needs a lot of work, I think to give herself something to do until she can figure out what she wants to do with her life.”
Greg took a sip of his iced tea, then placed it back on the table. “So, it's more investment property than anything else?”
“I don't know. All I do know is that she's working hard on it, and I hope she plans on living there.” Rebecca felt suddenly defensive of her lover. “It's going to be nice when she finishes with it.”
“Okay, okay.” Greg held up his hands in defeat. “I'm sorry if it sounded like I was attacking her. I wasn't.” He looked up as the waitress placed a plate in front of Rebecca, then him. “Thank you.”
She nodded and moved off to another table, barely slowing down.
Rebecca looked down at her plate. “No, I'm the one who should apologize. You were just making conversation, and I jumped down your throat. I'm sorry.”
He held up his tea glass across the table, smiling when Rebecca did the same and the two glasses clinked together. “Truce. By the way, I got a call from Jack Sterling this morning.”
“What did he want?”
“Well, it seems there's a playday this weekend. He was wondering if you were interested, especially after your stunning rodeo debut.” Greg took a cautious bite of his hamburger, and decided if was not only safe, but quite delicious.
Rebecca swallowed her first bite before answering. “I'd love to.” Her exuberance turned to sadness almost immediately. “Unfortunately, I don't have a trailer anymore.” She wasn't about to ask her old landlord, since she knew what his answer would be.
“Ah, but here's where it gets interesting.” Greg took another bite, almost moaning aloud at its great flavor. He chewed for a moment, then swallowed. “Jack and I were discussing that, too.”
“And?” Rebecca loved her father dearly, but his penchant for storytelling wore thin at times.
Greg finished another bite, surprised to see that he had eaten over half his lunch already. “He knows where we can pick up an older trailer, really cheap. All it needs is a new paint job.”
“Really? That would be wonderful!” Rebecca almost jumped up and hugged her father. “How much is it going to cost me?”
He dipped a French fry into some ketchup and popped it into his mouth. Talking around the food he said, “Would you consider working out a trade for it? Jack needs someone to keep an eye on his mare next week while he's out of town. She's about to foal, and he's worried about her.”
Rebecca almost choked on her hamburger. “That's it? Watch over a mare for a few days?” She was surprised, but happy. “If you'll give me Mr. Sterling's number, I'll call him and accept his kind offer. And, I'll be thrilled to be in the playday this coming weekend.”
“I can do better than that.” Greg reached for the cell phone that was clipped on his belt. “His number's in my cell. Call him right now, if you want.”
“I will. Thanks, Dad.” With a large smile on her face, Rebecca took the phone.
“YOU'RE TELLING ME someone actually lived here and didn't burn the house down?” The electrician shook his head. “The wiring in the house is original, and I'm guessing this place to be at least sixty years old.” He wrote something on his notepad, then looked back up at Shelby. “I hate to do this to you, but you're going to have to rewire the whole place before it'll pass inspection.”
Shelby nodded. “I figured as much. What would that sort of thing run me?”
He wrote the number down on his pad and showed it to her.
“Geez! That's ridiculous. Can I do it myself?”
The electrician shook his head again. “Nope. It has to be done by a licensed electrician. But I can send someone over who may be able to give you a better price.”
“What's the catch?” Shelby was always too practical for her own good, and was told one time that she was a person that saw the glass as half empty instead of half full, which didn't bother her in the least.
“There's no real catch. The electrician I have in mind has just recently been certified, and is looking to get some work.” He scratched his beard and grinned. “And I'll bet you two would hit it off just fine.”
Shelby eyed him warily. “What's that supposed to mean?”
“Nothing. Let me make a phone call, and we'll see what happens, all right?”
“Might as well. It's got to be done.” Shelby could almost hear her savings being sucked down a huge drain, and the sound was getting annoying.
PARKING NEXT TO Shelby's truck, Rebecca didn't see the electrician's vehicle that was behind the house. She had taken off early from work so that she could meet Shelby, going so far as to borrow an old basket from her mother and making up a nice picnic dinner. Rebecca climbed out of her car and walked quietly inside, wanting to surprise Shelby. Going into the hallway and seeing a pair of legs hanging down from the entry to the attic, Rebecca grabbed at the boots. “Hello, sexy.”
“Hello yourself, sweetie,” a woman, not much older than herself, greeted. She looked down at Rebecca. “You must be looking for Shelby.”
“Oh, God, just kill me now,” Rebecca dropped the basket and muttered, covering her flaming face with her hands.
At that moment, Shelby showed up. “Rebecca? Darlin', I wasn't expecting you until later.” She moved until she was standing next to her lover, then took Rebecca into her arms. “Not that I'm complaining.”
Rebecca buried her face in Shelby's shirt, so her reply was muffled. “I brought you some dinner.”
“Is it that time already?” Shelby checked her watch. “I can't believe how fast time has flown by today.”
The electrician swung down from her perch to land softly beside the other two women. “I know what you mean. But I should probably be heading back to town, anyway.” She waited until Rebecca turned around and then held out her hand. “I'm Cassandra, handy dandy electrician, at your service.”
Accepting the offered hand, Rebecca couldn't help but smile. “Rebecca. Sorry about the mistaken identity.”
“No problem.” Cassandra winked at Shelby. “See you bright and early, okay?”
Shelby nodded. “I'll be here.” She watched the other woman walk down the hallway, and waited until she heard the sound of Cassandra's truck leaving before she asked, “What mistaken identity were you talking about?”
Rebecca blushed again. “It's nothing, really.”
“No, I'd like to know.” Shelby's grin widened. “You thought Cassie was me?” She started to laugh. “We don't look a thing alike.”
“It's not that funny. All I saw were her legs hanging from the ceiling. How was I supposed to know?”
Shelby couldn't control her laughter. “What happened?”
Looking at the floor, Rebecca answered, “I grabbed her legs and called her,” she mumbled the last word.
“Called her what? I didn't quite get that.”
“Sexy.” Rebecca stared at the floor as she whispered the word. “I really thought she was you.”
Seeing that her lover was upset, Shelby decided to stop teasing her. “I'm sure she didn't mind, darlin'. Probably brought a smile to her face.” The electrician wasn't homely, but she was no raving beauty, either. She motioned to the basket that sat at Rebecca's feet. “I take it that dinner's in there?”
Rebecca picked up the basket. “It is. Do you have any idea of a good place to eat it? I'm afraid the kitchen's not quite ready.”
Taking the container from Rebecca, Shelby started down the hallway. “Let's spread a blanket out in the bed of my truck. We should be plenty comfortable.”
“Good idea.” Rebecca followed her lover, admiring the view.
AFTER FILLING THEMSELVES completely, Shelby leaned back against the cab of the truck, while Rebecca's head lay comfortably in her lap. Shelby's long fingers stroked absently through her hair, which caused Rebecca to yawn. “If you keep that up, I'll fall asleep out here,” Rebecca warned.
“What? Oh.” Shelby continued her motion, while looking down into the blue eyes she loved so much. “Would that be such a bad thing? It's nice out here.” She'd spent many a night sleeping outside, when her trailer had gotten too warm. But Shelby wasn't too sure how Rebecca would take to the great outdoors.
“Mmm.” Rebecca's eyes closed again as Shelby's fingers traced gentle patterns on her scalp. “Tell me about your day.”
“Not much to tell, really. Found out that all the wiring in the house is ancient, and needs to be replaced. That's why Cassie's here.”
Cassie, huh? Rebecca felt jealously rear its ugly head. “You two hit it off pretty quick, didn't you?”
“Well, yeah. She's a nice person.” Shelby was oblivious to Rebecca's ire. “The guy I talked to this morning recommended her, saying we'd probably get along. I thought it was mighty nice of him.”
I'll just bet he did. Rebecca willed her body to relax as she opened her eyes and looked up into Shelby's face. “She doesn't look old enough to be an electrician. Are you sure she's capable of the work?”
“I think so. She's new, she said so herself. But, everyone's got to start somewhere, right? She seems alright to me.”
“Uh-huh. Did you ask for references, or to see her credentials?” Although Rebecca felt that the tight work shirt that Cassandra wore showed off her “credentials” more than adequately.
Shelby frowned. “No. I just figured if the other guy recommended her, it was good enough for me. Is there something wrong that you're not telling me?” She saw the tight set of Rebecca's jaw. Then it occurred to her. “You're jealous?”
“Darlin', you'll never have to worry about me going astray. I'm a one-woman woman.” To punctuate her words, Shelby leaned down and placed a firm kiss on Rebecca's lips.
Rebecca felt bad for ever doubting her lover. When they broke apart, she murmured, “I'm sorry. It's just that all of this is so new to me, and you're more experienced. I guess I'm afraid of being too boring for you.” She felt tears well up in her eyes and wiped at them savagely with one hand. “God knows I'm not much of a catch.” Rebecca sat up and tried to scoot away, but was stopped by Shelby's arms around her.
“Now wait just a damned minute.” Shelby waited until she had Rebecca's complete attention. “That's the woman I love you're talking about.” She caressed Rebecca's cheek with her hands, using her thumbs to wipe away the tears. “I wake up every morning wondering what I did to deserve you, so don't go knocking your importance.” Then she smiled. “Besides, Cassie's married and has two kids. I don't think I'm her type.”
“Married? To a man?”
“Yep. But I'm not holding that against her,” Shelby joked.
Rebecca sighed. “Now I really feel foolish.” She lowered her face, unable to meet Shelby's gaze.
“You have no reason to feel foolish. As a matter of fact, that makes me feel pretty damned good.”
Shelby nodded. “Really.” She leaned forward and kissed Rebecca again, this time with more fervor. She helped Rebecca lean back until the other woman was lying flat on the blanket. Feeling strong fingers pull her shirt out of her jeans, Shelby wasn't surprised when her bra was liberated from her body, and both items found their way to another part of the truck.
Rebecca worked at the button on Shelby's jeans, glad when she got help pushing them down. She allowed Shelby to strip her of her own clothes, and moaned in anticipation when bare flesh met bare flesh. She reached up and tangled her hands in Shelby's hair. “Come here,” she commanded, before no more words were needed, and the two of them joined together underneath the stars.
WRAPPED IN THE blanket they had lain upon earlier, Rebecca couldn't help but grin. “I guess it's a good thing we're so secluded out here, huh?”
Shelby was busy getting back into her clothes, since the blanket wasn't big enough for them both, and she was feeling a bit chilled. “Yeah. I also like when you bring picnic dinners, although I'm hungry again.”
“I don't doubt that. We both wore off what food we ate,” Rebecca acknowledged. “Unfortunately, our basket is empty.”
Shelby tossed Rebecca's top to her. “If you'll get dressed, we can run into town and get a bite to eat.”
Rebecca opened the blanket that she wore as a robe. “You mean I can't go like this?”
“Well, yeah,” Shelby almost drooled at the sight before her. “But you might get a bit chilly at the IHOP.”
“Spoil sport,” Rebecca muttered. She dressed quickly, also feeling the nip in the night air.
Once they were in the truck and on their way, Shelby glanced over at Rebecca. “I forgot to ask how your day went.”
“Oh, that's right, I didn't tell you, did I? I had lunch with my father today.”
“How's he doing?” Shelby kept her eyes on the road, but was truly curious.
Rebecca twisted in the seat so that she could see Shelby better. “He's doing well, and wanted to give me a message.”
“There's a playday this weekend.” Rebecca couldn't keep the excitement out of her voice. “And I'm getting my own trailer! It just needs a little work. All I have to do is baby sit a mare for a few days. Of course, I'm going to need a truck to pull it.”
Shelby smiled. “That's great news. And of course you can use this truck.” She pulled the vehicle into the driveway of a fast food chain. They had both decided that getting food and going back to the motel would be best. “Would you mind if I watched?”
“Not at all.” Rebecca studied the menu board. “You can compete, if you want. There are always a lot of different events.”
“I might just do that. Any extra money right now would be good.”
They ordered their food and took it back to the motel. Once inside their room, Shelby tossed her keys on the dresser. “They don't have bull riding, do they?”
“No. But they have bronc riding, and some different roping events. Would you be interested in any of those?” Rebecca asked, following her lover into the room.
“I haven't tried bronc riding in years,” Shelby admitted. “That could be fun.”
SHELBY PARKED THE truck beside another and turned off the engine. “There's quite a crowd here.” She didn't know what she had been expecting, but counting the trailers, the day would rival the rodeo she had just competed in.
“Isn't it great? People come from several counties away to participate. Are you still going to try your hand at bronc riding?” Rebecca scanned the different trailers to see if she could recognize anyone. “Hey, there's Tammy. And Rudy, too. I haven't seen them in ages.” She opened her door and jumped from the vehicle, rushing off to meet with old friends.
Shaking her head, Shelby also exited the truck, but at a more leisurely pace. She studied the old trailer, which indeed needed work, mostly cosmetic. A little sanding, a few cans of spray paint, and it'll be good as new. She was surprised at what Rebecca would have to do for ownership. Obviously the man was a friend of Rebecca's father, and had no use for the trailer anymore. Still, it was a nice gesture. She was about to help Patches from the rig when she saw Rebecca and her two friends head back in her direction. This ought to be fun.
The three women were walking arm in arm, laughing at something while Rebecca chatted away. They stopped at the trailer and Rebecca broke rank to stand beside Shelby. “Girls, I'd like for you to meet my,” My what? What do I call her? Girlfriend? She wasn't ashamed of their relationship, but she wasn't too sure how her old friends would take her new one. “My friend, Shelby Fisher. We met at the county rodeo.”
“It's nice to meet you, Shelby,” the short, dark-haired woman said. “I'm Tammy Sanchez, and this quiet one next to me is Rudy.” As she pointed to Rudy, the woman blushed.
“Nice to meet you,” Rudy mumbled. Her brown hair hung down in her face, almost hiding her light brown eyes. She stepped back, as if she were afraid Shelby would bite.
Shelby looked at Rebecca. A part of her was hurt that Rebecca didn't recognize their true relationship. Well, maybe it's for the best. Small towns normally have small minds, and she does have to live here, after all. “It's nice to meet you both.” Shelby pulled her hat down a bit more. “If you'll excuse me, I really need to get Patches out before she melts in this trailer.”
“I'd better help.” Rebecca knew that her not acknowledging their relationship hurt Shelby's feelings, and she hoped that they could talk things out before it got completely out of hand. “Will I see you both later?”
“Count on it,” Tammy assured her. “We really need to talk more. Come on, Rudy. My brother should have the horses all groomed by now.”
Rebecca waved to them as they left, unaware that Shelby had brought Patches out of the trailer. She turned to help, and almost ran face first into the animal. “I could have done that.”
“No need, I had it handled,” Shelby assured her. “How do we sign in for this shindig?”
So that's how it's going to be. “Are you mad at me?”
“Why should I be?” Shelby ducked down and walked under Patches neck so that she was on the same side as Rebecca. “We are friends, aren't we?”
Rebecca stared down at her boots. “We're a lot more than that. I'm sorry.”
“Don't worry about it. You probably did the right thing, anyway. I'd hate for you to lose any friends because of me.” Shelby took a step forward so that she was within inches of Rebecca. “Just remember I love you.”
Seeing the look in her lover's eyes, Rebecca stepped forward and was about to wrap her arms around Shelby's neck when a loud voice interrupted them.
“Damn it, Becca. Can't you at least try to look normal? Some of these people are friends of mine. Don't embarrass me,” Terry growled. He was dressed in starched denim jeans and shirt, and his pointed toe boots appeared brand new. The hat on his head was tilted in an awkward manner, as if he had never worn one before.
“You're asking her not to embarrass you?” Shelby laughed. “At least we're not dolled up like some folks.”
Terry took a menacing step forward. “Shut up, you queer bitch. It's all your fault she's like this, anyway.”
Rebecca put her hand on her brother's chest. “Stop it. We're not doing anything wrong.”
“Yeah, well only because I stopped you.” Terry pointed his finger at Shelby. “What are you looking at, dyke?”
As much as she wanted to knock some sense into Terry, Shelby took a step back. “Nothing. I'm not looking at anything.” That's right, kid. You're just a bit of nothing. No better than the stuff people step in around here. She leaned up against the trailer, crossing her arms over her chest and allowing a slight smirk to appear on her face.
“What?” Terry glared at her. “What's so funny?”
“Terry, hush. You're starting to make a scene,” reminded Rebecca. She kept her place between her brother and her lover, afraid that Terry would do or say something that would cause Shelby to go on the offensive. She tried to distract him. “What are you doing here? Dad didn't say anything to me about you coming out today.”
Her brother straightened the oversized hat on his head, causing another near-burst of laughter from Shelby. “Dad mentioned you'd be here, and I wanted to watch, since I missed you at the rodeo.” He glared at Shelby, as if to say he could have kept them apart had he been there. “He didn't know I was coming, either.”
“Ah. That's fine.” Rebecca wrapped her arms around her brother's waist, trying to ignore the fact that his body went rigid at the contact. “It's great to see you.”
Terry finally relaxed and put his arms around Rebecca. “Mom and Dad will probably be here too, although I think they plan on staying in the stands.”
Rebecca cheered at the thought. “Really? That would be wonderful.” She heard an announcement over the loudspeaker and stepped away from her brother. “Would you excuse us? We've got to get signed in.”
“I guess I need to go find a good seat before they're all taken, anyway,” Terry grumbled. “Good luck, Sis.” Not bothering to give either of the women another look, he walked away, his gait showing his discomfort with his footwear.
“That went well,” Shelby commented dryly.
“Yeah, right.” Rebecca checked the lead rope that was clipped to Patches halter, assured that it was tied to the trailer properly. “Come on, we really do need to get signed in.” She took her lover's hand without thinking.
Shelby allowed Rebecca to pull her along, a smile on her face. I wish little brother could see this – he'd probably shit his new jeans. The thought caused her to laugh.
“What's so funny?”
“Nothing. Lead on, darlin'. Let's get this playday started.”
REBECCA SIGNED UP for barrel racing and pole bending, the latter being something that Shelby had never seen before. She followed her lover back to the trailer, slightly confused. “Tell me again what you do?” Shelby asked.
“There are six poles set in a straight line, twelve feet apart. Patches and I zigzag through them, then once we get to the end, spin and zigzag our way back. It's pretty simple, although it takes a really talented horse.” They were back at the trailer, and Rebecca patted her equine friend's side. “I'm really lucky that Patches does most of the work. I just hang on.”
“I'm sure you do more than that.” Shelby went around to the side to where all the gear was stored in the trailer, gathering up what Rebecca would need.
Rebecca took the blanket and saddle from Shelby's hands, and quickly saddled her mount. She then removed the halter and replaced it with a bridle, scratching Patches behind the ear after doing so. “You ready, girl?”
Shelby watched as Rebecca prepared, and was impressed by the other woman's attention to detail. Rebecca checked and double checked all the fittings, and smoothed her hand across the horse's flank after she did so. “So you do the pole thing first, right?”
“Yes.” Rebecca put her left foot in the stirrup and swung her right leg over the saddle, easily mounting Patches. She looked down at her lover and held out her hand. “Would you like a ride over to the arena?”
Unable to keep the grin from her face, Shelby accepted the hand. “Sure.” She waited until Rebecca removed her foot from the stirrup, then put her left foot in and allowed herself to be pulled up behind the other woman. “I think I like riding horses better this way,” Shelby whispered to her lover, wrapping her arms around Rebecca's waist.
“I thought you would.” Rebecca lightly tapped her heels to Patches sides, and the horse started a slow walk toward the arena.
REBECCA'S TURN AT the poles was fourth, so she waited patiently with Shelby while the other three contestants rode. The last woman knocked down one of the objects, which cost her penalty seconds, and caused Rebecca to release a sigh of relief.
“What's up?” Shelby asked.
“Her horse was about the only one that could outrun Patches. If we keep our heads about us, we should place pretty well.”
Shelby nodding her understanding. “No matter what, I think you'll do great.” She wanted to pull Rebecca into her arms and give her a kiss for good luck, but didn't think it would be wise. She settled for putting her hand on Rebecca's arm and giving it a light squeeze. “Go get 'em, tiger.”
Rebecca took a deep breath and climbed aboard Patches. “Thanks.” She tipped her white western hat to Shelby and was gone.
Shelby had to admit that Rebecca looked great in her rodeo wear: emerald green Rocky jeans that hugged all of her curves, a green and white striped shirt, and black boots. She'd seen too many other women “make themselves up” just for the rodeo, but Rebecca's clothes were worn enough to show that she dressed this way normally. Of course, part of it was her job, but another was just Rebecca's love for the style of clothes. And she looks damned good in them, and out of them, too, Shelby admitted to herself.
For her part, Rebecca worked on clearing her mind of everything except the event before her. She knew she needed all her concentration on the task at hand. The closer they got to the arena, the more Patches began to prance. By the time they got to their starting point, she could barely keep her still. “Almost there, girl.” At the signal, Rebecca leaned over the saddle and dug her heels into Patches, giving the horse its head.
Shelby watched on nervously, as horse and rider became one. They moved through the poles quickly and efficiently, and by the time they were through, Shelby released the breath that she had taken before Rebecca had come into the arena. “Wow.” She couldn't wait for Rebecca to return so that she could compliment them both on their ride. The voice over the loud speaker told her what she already knew – Rebecca was in first place.
Rebecca climbed off Patches and led her back to where Shelby waited. Not caring who saw, she rushed into the other woman's arms. “You're my good luck charm.”
“Nah,” Shelby deferred, “You two did it all on your own. That was amazing, darlin'. And I thought you were fast on the barrels.”
“It just looks faster because of the weaving in and out, I think.”
Shelby stepped back and held her lover at arms length, aware of the way some of the people were looking at them. She didn't want to cause a scene, especially since Rebecca was so happy. “Well, whatever it is, congratulations. That was a great ride.”
“Thanks.” At that moment, Rebecca could hear Shelby's stomach grumble. “Sounds like you're ready for a bite.”
“I'm always ready,” Shelby teased, waggling her eyebrows, which caused her lover to blush.
“For food, you heathen.” Rebecca poked Shelby in the arm. “Come on. We'll go get a hot dog or something, so you don't collapse.”
“Gee, thanks.” But Shelby smiled, glad to walk next to Rebecca, no matter what.
“ARE YOU SURE you want to do this?” Rebecca asked, as they headed toward the chutes for the women's bronc riding. “You said yourself it had been a long time since you'd tried it.”
Shelby tried to ease her lover's fears. “I'll just think of the horse as a skinny, hornless bull. No problem.” Her spurs jangled as she walked, and she was already wearing her chaps.
“But you said yourself it was completely different.”
“It is. But I can handle it. I used to do it a lot when I was younger.” Shelby was just surprised that they had women's bareback bronc riding as an event, with as much testosterone as she had witnessed around them today. There were only four women competing as it was, so she had a good chance of placing, at the very least. She had been very lucky that Rebecca knew someone who loaned her the necessary gear. It consisted of the rigging, which looked like a heavy piece of leather with a suite case handle. That was all she had to hang on to the bucking animal, while trying to “mark out” the horse – spurring the horse from shoulder to rigging, back and forth to make a qualified ride. Shelby had already introduced herself to the pick-up men – riders whose job it was to swoop in and pick up the rider after the ride is complete. She was truly looking forward for the opportunity to compete in a new event.
Rebecca took a glance around to see the other three women who were to compete in the event. All were bigger than her lover, and one of them looked as if she could bench press a school bus. “I'm still afraid you could get hurt.”
“There's always a chance of that, no matter what. But I do know what I'm doing, and if the first ride doesn't feel right to me, I'll quit.” Shelby noticed where her lover's eyes were. “She's a big gal, ain't she?”
The woman in question noticed that she had an audience. She excused herself from the people she was standing with, and headed toward the two women. “Becca?”
Rebecca stared at the large woman for a long moment, then broke out into a huge smile. “Dawn? Oh, wow! I haven't seen you in ages.” She immediately embraced the other woman, while Shelby looked on, confused.
“In the flesh.” Dawn pulled back from the hug. “Although, I'll admit to having a bit more flesh than I did in high school.”
“You look great,” Rebecca assured her, still not acknowledging her lover. “I didn't know you rode in the rodeo.”
Dawn flexed her arms. “I picked it up in college. But you look fantastic. Looks like the years have been especially good to you.”
Rebecca blushed. “I don't know about that, but thanks.” She felt, rather than heard, Shelby's restlessness. “Oh. Dawn, I'd love for you to meet my very good friend, Shelby Fisher. She'll be competing against you today.”
Shelby held out her hand. “Dawn. Good luck to you today.” She still didn't like the hungry look the other woman was giving her lover, but decided to let it go for now.
“Nice to meet you, too.” Dawn gave a quick glance Shelby's way, then her eyes were back on Rebecca. “Are you doing anything after the rodeo?”
Rebecca was about to answer, but was stopped by hearing Shelby's name over the loud speaker. “I think they're calling your name.”
“Yeah.” Shelby slowly made her way to the chutes, and heard as Rebecca and Dawn kept up their conversation. She couldn't make out the words, but felt resentful, anyway. Guess the best way to show up that hulk is to beat her. Now all she had to do was get her mind set on the ride ahead.
AFTER TALKING TO Dawn for a few more minutes, Rebecca realized that Shelby was nowhere to be found. She politely excused herself, and hurried over to watch the bareback riding event. One woman was already in the arena, struggling mightily to stay on. Unfortunately for her, she didn't last the allotted time, and picked herself up from the loose dirt.
Shelby was next. When the gate opened and the horse leapt out, her hat immediately flew from her head, leaving Shelby to squint in the afternoon sun. Using her spurs, she marked out the horse perfectly. The ride was going well, until a pained look cross Shelby's face. She hung on, barely, until the pick up men drew her from the back of the still bucking horse.
Rebecca could feel the butterflies in her stomach grow, until she thought she'd be ill. She could almost sense Shelby's pain. She raced from her vantage point to where Shelby walked from the arena. Her lover held her right arm against her body, doing her best to appear nonchalant.
Shelby's face gave her away. It was several shades lighter than normal, and beads of perspiration that hadn't been there previously dotted her forehead. She saw Rebecca head her way, and slowly lowered her arm to her side. A young boy, no older than ten, raced to her side and handed her the brown Stetson she always wore. “Thanks.” He hustled away, and Shelby used her left arm to place the hat back on her head.
Rebecca stopped Shelby in mid stride. “Are you all right?”
“Never better,” Shelby ground out. She certainly didn't want to tell Rebecca she was right, and that her right arm and shoulder both felt as if they were on fire, with hot stakes poking through. “Made the ride, didn't I?” She took in a deep breath, and slowly released it. “Don't you want to go see how your friend does?”
“No, I'd rather be here with you. She asked me out to dinner tonight.”
Shelby swallowed hard. “I see. Well, I'm sure you two have a lot of catching up to do.” She started to walk around Rebecca, but was stopped by a hand to her left arm, which caused her to spin and look at her lover.
“Oh, please. She was practically undressing me with her eyes. I didn't feel like a wrestling match tonight, unless it was with you. Besides, you're the one I love.” Rebecca studied Shelby's face carefully. “Now, no more lying to me. What's wrong?”
The pain was getting worse. Shelby realized that Rebecca would find out, sooner or later. “I'm not sure. I either messed up some muscles in my shoulder or arm, or something's out of place.” She looked around, but no one was paying either of them any attention. “Is there a medical station here? Maybe they can tell me.”
“I don't think so.” Rebecca settled against Shelby's left side and placed her arm around her waist. “You're going directly to the hospital.”
Shelby balked. “What about your next event? You're doing too well to leave, now.”
“You're more important than a stupid playday. Shelby, you could be seriously hurt.” Rebecca continued a path back to the truck, where Patches was content to be tied to the trailer.
“I can't let you do that. Let's just wait until your part is over, and then we'll go. It's already easing up some.” She just hoped that her little lie could be maintained until the playday was complete. “We can even sit up with your folks, if you want.”
Rebecca did want to compete. Just not at the expense of Shelby's health. She is walking around on her own. I suppose we can wait, unless it really gets too painful for her. “Okay. But you promise to tell me when you need to leave.”
The rest of the playday went well. They decided against sitting with Rebecca's family, since they could see Terry by Kathy, his ridiculous clothes causing him to stand out in the crowd. Instead, they milled around with the other contestants, where Rebecca asked Shelby to step out of the bareback riding event. It didn't take much convincing.
Shelby walked next to Rebecca and Patches, who were up soon for the barrel racing event. The pain was making her sick to her stomach, but she was determined to ride it out so that Rebecca could win the two events she led in. “Looks like it's about time for you to finish off these other gals.”
“I sure hope so.” Rebecca held Patches reins in one hand, and longed to hold Shelby's right hand with her other. “It's the last event for me, and then we can get you checked out.”
As bad as she felt, Shelby was in no condition to argue. “What about Patches? Shouldn't we take her out to the farm, first?”
Rebecca had forgotten about that. Her mind searched for an answer. “After this ride, let me talk to my dad. I've got an idea.” They were at the edge of the arena, so she gave Shelby's good arm a gentle squeeze before swinging up into the saddle. “Wish me luck.”
“Darlin', you don't need it. You and Patches make a perfect team.” Shelby reached up and patted the horse's neck. “But, good luck, anyway.” She winked at her lover and stepped back from the horse.
“I love you,” Rebecca leaned down and whispered.
Shelby reached up with her left hand and ran her finger along Rebecca's jaw. “Me, too. Now go out there and get 'em.”
“You got it.” Rebecca nudged Patches forward.
THE SMALL HOSPITAL'S waiting area wasn't overly busy, but Shelby and Rebecca still had to wait to see a doctor, since there weren't that many available. The longer they sat there, the more antsy Shelby became. “We could always just wait until Monday, then make an appointment with a regular doctor,” she huffed. She didn't care for hospitals, and the pain she was in was only making her grumpier. “Let's just go.”
“Oh, no. Not after all the trouble I went through to get you here.” Rebecca referred to asking her father to take Patches back to the farm and bed her down for the evening, while she drove her mother's new SUV to the hospital. She promised to stop by the house later and switch back with them, but her brother had been extremely obnoxious and loud about the whole affair. “I could have just killed Terry for causing that big scene in the parking lot. I can't believe what a jerk he's being.”
“Don't get too down on him. I'm sure it's just his way of protecting his big sister.” Shelby closed her eyes and leaned her head back against the wall. “It at least shows he cares.”
Rebecca patted Shelby's thigh. “He cares more about how it affects him, the little jackass. I ought to—”
An older woman wearing comfortable scrubs stopped Rebecca in mid-sentence. “Ms. Fisher? The doctor will see you now.” She had taken most of their information down earlier, so she was familiar with Shelby's case.
Shelby slowly got to her feet, no longer trying to hide the pain she was in. She held her right arm gently across her body and followed the nurse. “Thanks.”
Rebecca thought about staying where she was, but she wanted to be there for Shelby. Her boots clomped loud on the clean linoleum floor as she hurried to catch up. “I'm right behind you, Shelby.”
They were led to a small room off the hallway. The nurse, whose nametag read Linda, popped on latex gloves. “Ms. Fisher, if you'll just climb up on the examining table, I'll get all your vital signs checked.”
Shelby looked at the high, paper covered table, then back at the nurse. “I hate to admit this, ma'am, but I don't think I get up there with this bum arm.”
“Stupid me.” Linda glanced over at Rebecca. “Do you think the two of us can toss her up there?”
Rebecca nodded. “Of course.” She got on Shelby's injured side, and cautiously wrapped her arm around Shelby's waist.
The nurse did the same from the other side, and between the two of them, they easily lifted Shelby to the bed.
Although the other two did all the work, Shelby felt as if she would collapse from the exertion. She sat by quietly as the nurse did her job, checking everything from her blood pressure to her temperature.
“That's all I need, Ms. Fisher. The doctor will be in to see you shortly.” Linda left the small room and closed the door, allowing the two women the first bit of privacy they'd had all day.
Rebecca immediately stepped between Shelby's legs and placed her hands on her lover's thighs. “You look miserable, honey. Is there anything I can do for you?”
“You're doing a pretty good job right now. I just can't wait until the doctor tells me to go home and take some aspirin for a few days, and we can get out of here.”
The door opened, and a kindly older man stepped into the room. “Trying to take my job away from me, young lady?” He barely noticed when Rebecca stepped back out of his way. The doctor looked at the nurse's notes. “So, you're one of those rodeo people, are you? Pretty rough on the body, isn't it?”
“It sure was this time,” Shelby admitted. She bit her lip to keep from crying out in pain when the doctor gently raised her right arm.
“I'm sorry about that. I think before we go any further into this exam, we'll get some x-rays taken of your arm, shoulder and back. There's no sense in you being in needless pain.”
Rebecca stepped forward and rubbed Shelby's lower back in an effort to help her relax. “Thank you, Doctor—”
“Anderson. I'm not usually here at the hospital, but a friend asked me to help out. I have a private practice here in town.” He winked at the two women. “Let me go get a nurse to help you to the radiation department.” At that, Dr. Anderson left the room.
SHELBY'S X-RAYS ALMOST beat her back to the room, where the doctor was waiting. He and Rebecca were carrying on a quiet conversation, which stopped when Shelby was wheeled into the examination room by the nurse. “Am I interrupting something?”
“Not at all.” Dr. Anderson waved off the nurse, who was about to help Shelby get back up on the table. “That's not necessary, Linda. We're only going to be in here for a few more minutes, at the most.” After Linda left, he clipped the x-rays up on the lit board. “I'm no orthopedic physician, but from what I can tell here, you've messed things up pretty well, Shelby. The best thing I can prescribe for you is some painkillers for now, and have you set up an appointment with our sports doctor, who happens to have an office in the building across the street.” He gently slipped a sling on Shelby. “This should help, at least a little bit.”
“Do you think I'll be able to compete again?” Shelby asked, fearful of the answer.
Dr. Anderson shrugged his shoulders. “I'm no expert, but since what you do puts such a strain on that arm, I'd have to say no.” He watched as she dropped her gaze to the floor. “I'll have Linda give you the orthopedic surgeon's card, and you can contact him on Monday.”
Rebecca saw that Shelby was in no shape to answer the doctor. “Thank you. We appreciate all your help.”
“I just wish I could give you better news.” Dr. Anderson tapped Shelby on the leg. “You hang in there, kid. I'm just an old general practice doctor, so I may not be up on all the new technology available to make you better.”
Shelby nodded. She tried to look more cheerful than she felt. “Thanks, doc. Even if you're right, it's not the end of the world, is it?”
“Exactly. You're still young, and there are a lot of things you can do.” He wrote out a prescription and handed it to Rebecca before leaving the room, saddened by the look of despair on Shelby's face.
Rebecca helped Shelby out of the wheelchair. “Come on. Let's get you home. We can stop off at a twenty-four hour pharmacy on the way.”
“Sure.” Shelby wanted to yank away from Rebecca, but knew the movement would cause the pain in her arm to become worse. “In case you've forgotten, I don't have a home.”
Startled at the harsh tone in her lover's voice, Rebecca stopped in the hallway and removed her grip. “Of course you do, it just needs—”
“Work that I'll probably never be able to finish. And I certainly can't afford to fix it up, or live in a motel indefinitely. Damn, I was stupid to sell my trailer.”
Rebecca followed Shelby outside, moving around in front of her to cause her to stop. “You weren't stupid at all, Shelby. That trailer, no matter what kind of personal value it held for you, was no place for you to continue to live. You need a real place, with running water and a toilet that works.”
“And how am I supposed to pay for someplace like that? You said yourself I'm going to need a high school diploma before I can get a decent job.” Shelby felt her hopes falling down around her. “Maybe I'll just go live with my aunt for a while. That is, if she'll still have me.”
Rebecca felt the blood rush from her face. “You'd leave me?”
“I'm sure not taking any charity from you. Please don't ask me to do that.” Shelby brushed by Rebecca and walked toward the parking lot.
“Is that what you think it would be, charity?” Rebecca asked, when she caught up to Shelby, who stood next to the Tahoe. “I happen to love you, you know. Can't I help you without having an ulterior motive?”
Shelby wanted to slam her hand against the SUV, but held her temper in check. It wasn't her vehicle, after all. “That's not the point. I know you love me, and I love you, too. But I can't just sponge off you like some laze about.”
“Then we'll find you a job, and we can live together.” Rebecca unlocked the SUV and they both got inside. “Would that be okay?”
It was quiet while Shelby thought about Rebecca's latest comment. Could they? Their relationship was still so new, and the thought of living in one place, with one person, terrified Shelby. She looked across at Rebecca. There's really no contest, is there? “That sounds more than okay, darlin'.”
Rebecca sighed in relief. “All right. Then let's get you taken care of for the night, and we can worry about everything else on Monday, agreed?”
“Agreed.” Shelby met Rebecca halfway and they kissed, sealing the deal.
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