He saw irritation spread across her face. “Ready for what?”
“To be pushed into feeling things I wasn’t ready to feel before. In fact, I’m open to endless possibilities.”
Channing stared at Zane as her mind trickled back in time. The Zane Westmoreland she’d fallen in love with had never been a typical guy. There had been so many facets to him that she’d spent the first couple of months of their relationship trying to unravel him. There had been the reserved Zane. The forbidding Zane. The Zane who was devoted to his family. The Zane who said what he meant and meant what he said. Those were the qualities that had first attracted her to him, and those same qualities were what had captured her heart and made her fall in love with him.
She knew he still had those qualities, so who was the Zane she didn’t know? As if the question was stamped on her forehead for him to read, he said, “You never get to know anyone completely, Channing, and the reason I’m willing to be pushed now is because I don’t want to lose you again.” He paused. “I admit I’m close. Closer than I’ve ever been in my entire life. Like I said, all I need is a little push.”
He had to make Channing understand. He loved her, and maybe if she didn’t believe he was there already, she would buy that he was almost there and take the chance of prodding him further.
“I admire you so damn much, Channing,” he said honestly. “More than any other woman I’ve been involved with. I knew you wanted more from me, more than I could give. But that didn’t mean I didn’t care for you, because I did. I never led you on. I was always honest with you.”
Channing said nothing as she thought about what he said. He was right. He had always been honest with her. He’d never told her he loved her, and she could admit that it wasn’t his fault that she had wanted him to feel differently.
Now he needs a little push. What if I give him that push and nothing comes of it? Doesn’t he understand he’s asking me to play Russian roulette with my heart?
“Just what are you asking of me, Zane?”
“Something I probably have no right to,” he said gently. “But I’m asking anyway because I want you more than I’ve ever wanted any woman. Don’t give up on me. Get to know the real Zane, and don’t be afraid to push me to the limit. You’re the only woman who can. You’re the only woman I will ever love.”
Channing drew in a deep breath as she absorbed what Zane was saying. Although he didn’t love her, he believed that she had the power to make him love her? All he needed was a little push. If that was the case, why hadn’t he fallen in love with her when they were dating? Things had been good between them—the sex, the communication, the entire relationship. He hadn’t been ready then. What would be different this time around?
She drew in another deep breath, deciding to call him out on something he’d said yesterday. “When you said you loved me, one of the reasons you claimed you didn’t act on it was because you were afraid. What did you mean by that?”
Zane held her gaze for a long time, then in a quiet tone he said, “Let’s sit down while I try to explain things.”
She stared at him a second before nodding. What he was about to tell her was the complete truth. He hoped it would help her understand him. When she led him into the living room, he followed. She eased down on the sofa, and he took the chair across from her.
Channing sensed by the firm set of his chin that whatever Zane was about to tell her was a serious matter. He was sitting in the chair, stiff and straight, which indicated that he was not comfortable with what he was about to share. Gone were his familiar coolness, relaxed air and arrogance. Instead, she detected a sense of vulnerability in him—one that was controlled and guarded. Those were things she hadn’t seen in him before.
He was tense, and she could feel the tension, as well. Why? “Zane?”
He met her gaze, held it for a long moment and then he asked softly, “Can you imagine losing both your parents at the same time?”
Channing’s pulse almost stopped. She swallowed deeply as she truthfully answered his question. “No, I can’t.”
He nodded slowly. “Well, I did. I was only nineteen and in my second year of college when it happened. But not only did I lose my parents. I also lost my uncle and aunt, who were like parents to me, as well. From that day forward, my life hasn’t been the same.”
Channing didn’t say anything. Because of her friendship with Megan, she knew the story of how his parents and his aunt and uncle had lost their lives in a plane crash. She’d also known there had been several Westmoreland kids under the age of sixteen at the time and that Zane’s brother Ramsey and his cousin Dillon had worked hard and made sacrifices to keep the family together.
“There wasn’t a whole lot of time for grieving since we had to all pitch in to help the younger ones cope. It wasn’t easy. A few of them worked through their grief by being rebellious, which caused unnecessary drama for all of us. But the one thing I decided never to do, because of that experience, was to get attached to anyone who I could lose in that way.”
After a deep breath, he continued. “I loved my parents, and losing them was hard on me. The pain was deep—almost unbearable at times. Unless you’ve been through something like that, you can’t begin to understand.”
Channing believed it. She could hear the pain in his voice and could also see it in his eyes. “Is that the reason you can’t fall in love, Zane? For fear of losing that person?”
“I thought so, but when I thought I had lost you after that night in McKays, for the first time I felt like I could take the risk. The risk of loving you was greater than the fear.”
So he thought he could be pushed into falling in love with her, she surmised, because she was the first woman he had felt so strongly connected to that the positive emotions overrode his ingrained fear. Was his admission enough for them to move forward and try again?
Could she actually push him into loving her?
What he was asking went against everything she’d ever read in relationship books. A woman couldn’t seduce a man into loving her. It took both people to make a relationship work. Was she missing some point here? Had she failed to take into account that all relationships weren’t the same? Had she been so focused on what she’d wanted out of the relationship that she’d refused to see that he couldn’t be rushed?
Zane had been a psychology major while in college and was rumored to have the ability to get into a woman’s psyche and fully understand how females perceived their world. If that was the case, maybe it was high time for a woman to determine how he perceived his.
For nine months, they’d shared a traditional relationship. They had met, shared great chemistry, enjoyed mind-blowing sex, found it easy to communicate with each other and had a good friendship. No game-playing and no pressure. Yet in the end, love hadn’t blossomed…at least not on his end.
But what if he doesn’t fall head over heels in love with you? Well, if that happens, at least you’ll have no doubt in your mind that he has issues that can’t be solved. There is a slim chance that what he says is true, that he’s capable of falling in love with you.
Are you willing to do whatever is necessary to find out? Even if it means putting on those rose-colored glasses and unlocking your heart again?
He stared at her with his mesmerizing eyes. Heat pooled between her legs because of his intense focus. The idea that he was asking her to help him fall in love was too much to take in at the moment. But if he hadn’t fallen in love before because he’d been afraid to love, could she help erase his fears?
“Go out with me tonight, Channing,” he said, his words floating across the room and touching her skin like a caress. “I understand there’s one of those drive-in theaters around here.”
When she parted her lips to turn him down, he held up his hand. “Before you say no, just think about what fun it might be. I haven’t been to one in years. I remember my folks would pile us all into their car, and it was great. And guess what? It’s John Travolta Night. Saturday Night Fever and Grease are in the lineup. I know how much you like the guy.”
He was right. She was a big John Travolta fan. There wasn’t a movie he’d made that she hadn’t seen. “John Travolta Night?”
She knew that accepting his invitation to the movies meant she was accepting his challenge. Was that something she wanted? Should she turn him down and ask him to leave and not come back?
No, she couldn’t do that. Doing so would be giving up on him, and if there was a possibility—even a slim one—that he was on the verge of falling in love with her, then she wanted to see it through. Who was it who said if you wanted something badly enough it was worth fighting for?
But this time if she wanted to do things differently, she had to shake up their routine.