“Don’t count on it. Why don’t you just head back to Denver? After that to-prove-a-point stunt you pulled in McKays, I don’t want you around.”
A dark scowl covered his face. “What do you call what we just did in this bed, Channing? We made love.”
She gave him a smirking look, one like he’d never gotten from her before. “No, we didn’t make love. We had sex. I’m sure you’re very familiar with the act.”
“Damn it, Channing. I could never have just sex with you!” he stormed.
“Then let me inform you that you just did.” She slid her feet into a pair of flat shoes. “Put your shirt on so I can walk you to the door.”
A nerve ticked in Zane’s jaw. Not only did she think so little of what they’d just shared but she was kicking him out! He opened his mouth to say a few words, but when he saw tears welling in her eyes he muttered a curse under his breath instead. Tears she was fighting like hell for him not to see. At that moment, he was filled with remorse that he had hurt the one woman he should have protected from all harm.
“Channing, I do love—”
“No,” she lashed out, halting his words in midsentence. “Just leave, Zane. Please, just leave.”
Feeling helpless on one hand and like a total ass on the other, Zane pushed out a deep breath and put on his shirt. He kept his gaze on Channing. “You’re wrong about me, Channing, and I intend to prove it.”
“Don’t waste your time trying to prove another point, Zane. I’ve taken off the rose-colored glasses and tossed them away. I did the same thing with the key to my heart.”
He shoved his hands into his pockets, refusing to go down in defeat. “Then I guess my job is to find both and return them.”
“Like I said, don’t waste your time.” She tossed the words over her shoulder as she led him out of the room to the door.
* * *
Zane’s gut tightened when he heard Channing’s door slam shut behind him. He paused when he reached the rental car. He had a mind to go right back up to her door and demand that she see reason, demand that she believe him.
Demand? Hell, he of all people should know you couldn’t demand anything from a woman—especially one who felt she’d been wronged. He swallowed a deep lump in his throat at the realization that she had been wronged. So far he hadn’t handled anything right with Channing. Feeling totally disgusted with himself, he opened the car door and slid inside, snapping the seat belt in place.
His hands gripped the steering wheel as he looked over his shoulder before backing out of her yard. He was in one hell of a mess and he—Zane Westmoreland who was considered the expert on any issues dealing with women—didn’t know what he needed to do to fix things.
He’d figured showing up and confessing his love would do it. He’d been dead wrong. A part of him was angry that she actually thought he would lie about something like that. Hell, he took those three words seriously. She’d suggested that he might be getting love confused with lust. Did she not think he knew the difference? Hell, he’d lusted after women since puberty. But he’d never felt the need to chase behind one and pour out his heart and soul.
The nerve of her, questioning his words of love. It was almost enough to make him want to drive back to the airport and catch the next plane to Denver. He didn’t need this.
But he did need her. And regardless of what she thought, he did love her.
When he came to a stop at a traffic light, Zane closed his eyes and conjured up the image he’d seen when she’d opened the door for him to leave. The look on her face was the same one he’d see when he’d broken things off with other women. But he’d never seen that look on her.
Some women just couldn’t accept, for whatever reason, that their relationship had come to the end. Seeing that look had never bothered him before because he’d felt it was the woman’s problem and not his. Unfortunately, he couldn’t think that way with Channing because he loved her. It was his problem.
He opened his eyes when a car behind him honked, letting him know the traffic light had changed. Moments later, he made a right at the intersection that would take him to one of the many hotels in the area. If Channing thought she’d gotten rid of him then she was sadly mistaken.
It was a beautiful day in July, and the ocean looked magnificent. As he drove along the beach’s scenic route, his gaze took in the beautiful landscape. He’d been to Virginia before, with Derringer and Jason, when they met with a rancher in Richmond who’d been interested in purchasing a number of their horses.
As he was driving, his cell phone rang. Thinking it might be Channing calling to let him know she did believe his confession of love after all, his heart pounded in his chest. Entering the hotel’s parking lot, he brought his car to a stop in one of the spaces and quickly shifted to pull his cell phone out of his pocket. He frowned when he saw the caller was not Channing but his cousin Canyon.
“What’s up, Canyon?”
“Where the hell are you, Zane? I dropped by the Hideout last night and again this morning, and it looks like a ghost town. I asked Derringer and Jason when I saw you weren’t working with the horses today. They both had locked lips for some reason.”
Good for them, Zane thought, turning off the car’s ignition. He’d told Derringer and Jason not to mention where he’d gone unless an emergency came up. The last thing he wanted was for Megan to get wind of the fact that he’d come after Channing. He didn’t want her to try and sabotage things for him. He’d gotten Rico’s word that he wouldn’t mention it to Megan for a few days, to give Zane time to make his case with Channing.
Zane figured Canyon must be hunting him down due to some woman issue. He was tempted to tell Canyon that he had his own problems to deal with. “I’m out of town on business, Canyon.” In a way, that was true. Channing was his business.
“Well, I need to talk to you about something.”
Zane rolled his eyes. “Something or someone?”
“Someone. I told you Keisha Ashford was back in town.”
Keisha was a woman his cousin had been involved with a few years ago. “Yes, you mentioned she’d returned and had gotten rehired at that law firm in town.”
“Well, I’ve been trying to get her to talk to me so we can clear up what drove us apart, but she won’t give me the time of day.”
Welcome to the club, Zane thought. “And?”
“And I don’t understand how she could have thought I betrayed her with another woman.”
Zane gritted his teeth. He understood Canyon’s dilemma since he couldn’t understand why Channing would think he didn’t love her. “Well, she did walk in on you and—”
“Bonita and I hadn’t done anything,” Canyon said.
“Yes, but I can understand why Keisha had a hard time believing that since Bonita Simpkins was naked and all…and if I recall the story, so were you.”
“I was wearing a towel because I had just taken a shower.”
“Oh.” He wondered if Canyon fully realized just how damaging that must have looked. “Let me ask you this,” Zane said. “When the two of you were together did you ever tell Keisha how you felt about her?”
“Of course I did. I don’t have commitment issues like you.”
Zane frowned. “What do you mean by that?”
“What I mean is that I happen not to see falling in love as some sort of a curse. My parents, as well as yours, had good marriages. Solid and strong. That’s the reason the thought of a wife and kids never threw me into a state of panic like it did you.”
Zane took offense. “It never threw me into a state of panic. I just wasn’t ready to settle down.”
“And you won’t ever be.”
Zane’s frown deepened. “What if I told you that I had fallen in love?”
Canyon laughed. “Then I would tell you to go tell that lie to somebody else. You’re incapable of falling in love. Now back to Keisha.”
Zane took the phone from his ear and stared at it. If his own kin didn’t believe he was capable of falling in love, then how could he expect Channing to believe it?
He put the phone back to his ear to hear Canyon rambling. His cousin was thirty-two and an attorney at the family firm. He’d started out as a medical student at Howard University and after the second year decided becoming a doctor wasn’t for him. He’d switched to Howard’s School of Law instead. Now he worked as an attorney at Blue Ridge. “Riley said I should make peace with her,” Canyon said.
“I tried, but she refuses to give me the time of day. I don’t even know where she lives, man. She refuses to tell me. And the few times I’ve run into her, she acted secretive. Like she’s hiding something.”
Zane drew in a deep breath. “So exactly what do you want from me, Canyon?”