“Where do you want me to place these? I doubt you can carry them.”
She doubted it, as well. “This way,” she said, leading the middle-aged man into her living room. “Right here will do.”
She stared as he set the potted bush down and stepped back. “Whoever sent these probably meant for you to plant this outside. I’ve never seen anything so large. He didn’t just send you long-stemmed roses. He sent you the entire rosebush.”
Channing nodded. “Wait a second so I can give you a tip.”
“No need,” he said, heading toward the door. “It’s already been taken care of. Your guy thought of everything. Nice fellow.”
Yeah, nice fellow, she thought, closing the door behind the deliveryman and turning to stare at the bush again. She’d read the card already and knew exactly who’d sent them, and she couldn’t forget what the card had said.
I love you.
What in the world was going on in that head of Zane’s? Why was he trying to get a head start on falling in love when she hadn’t even started pushing him yet?
She glanced over at the clock and then hurried to her bedroom. He would be here in less than thirty minutes, and she still had to put on her makeup. Good thing she never used a whole lot. Just a little powder and lipstick. Zane had often complimented her on her natural beauty.
She was wearing a pair of shorts and a tank top; she figured she’d keep them on. After all, she and Zane were going to a drive-in. If they decided to grab something to eat later, they could go to a fast-food place. Or they could come back here since she had plenty of food in the refrigerator.
She tossed her hair back from her face and tossed the idea from her head. She didn’t need to give Zane any encouragement by inviting him to her house after the movies. She would push, but it would be on her time and in her own way.
She drew in a deep breath when she heard his knock. Giving herself one last check in the full-length mirror, she left her bedroom and headed for the door.
* * *
When Channing opened the door, Zane shoved his hands into the pockets of his slacks and looked down at himself. He then glanced up at her and smiled. “I think I might be a little overdressed.”
A smile touched Channing’s lips when she stepped aside to let him in. “Yes, I would say just a little. We’re just going to the drive-in, Zane. No need for the jacket, shirt and slacks. You could have worn shorts or jeans with a T-shirt.”
He shrugged. “I don’t own a pair of shorts.”
She lifted a brow. “You’re kidding.”
He chuckled. “No, why would I kid about something like that? Have you forgotten I live in Colorado?”
“No, but there are warm days there. In fact, I remember a few times during the summer when it got up in the nineties.”
“Possibly, but I feel more comfortable in jeans or long pants. If there’s a problem with what I’m wearing, I can go back by the hotel and change.”
She waved off his words. “No problem. I’m fine with it. I just want you to be comfortable.”
“Oh, I plan to be comfortable.”
“Okay, then. Are you ready? All I have to do is—”
“Come here,” he interrupted in a low, husky tone, pulling her into his arms. “You look good, and you smell good, too.”
She went to him easily, willingly. Doing so reminded her of the time when things had been so good for them. A time when she had felt sure of herself where he was concerned. “Thank you. And I should also be thanking you for the flowers. Or should I say the rosebush. It’s beautiful.”
“So are you.”
“Thank you. Now as far as the card is concerned…”
“What about it?” He continued holding her in his arms. It was as though this was where she was meant to be.
“Getting carried away, don’t you think? Not giving me much room to push.”
He feigned ignorance. “You think so?”
“You think I’m moving too fast?”
Channing sighed deeply before pulling herself from his embrace and taking a step back. He could see the irritation in her expression. “What you’re doing is saying things you don’t mean. So chill, okay?”
He did mean them, and he intended for her to know it. But for now… “Okay. Are you ready to go?”
“Yes, let me grab my tote bag.”
As she rushed toward her bedroom, he noticed the huge plant sitting in the corner. When he’d walked into the florist shop after leaving her house earlier today, he’d seen it and wanted her to have it. He knew from the months they’d been together that she liked roses, especially red ones. Yet he’d never sent her any. On those occasions when he had sent her flowers, she’d gotten the pink-and-white carnations like all the other women he’d dated. He had been intent on not changing his course. The last thing he’d wanted was to fill her mind with the hope that things were more serious between them than they actually were. In a way, this rosebush represented all the roses he should have given her and hadn’t.
He smiled at her. “Okay, then. Let’s go.”
Taking hold of her arm, he led her toward the door.
* * *
“It seems you thought of everything,” Channing said, noting the large basket in the backseat. She wasn’t sure what was in it, but she was impressed he’d brought it.
“I tried to. We can eat whenever you get hungry.”
She had eaten a nice lunch right after Megan’s call, and it had filled her up. But that was before she’d gotten into Zane’s rental car and the basket had snagged her attention.
To get her mind and her stomach off the basket, she examined her surroundings. She saw all the cars parked facing the huge screen. A little excitement ran through her body. This was something new for her. “This is nice,” she said. “And this is the first time I’ve been to a drive-in.”
Zane let his seat back to accommodate his long legs. He glanced over at Channing. “You’ve never been to one before?”
“No. How old do you think I am? I understand drive-in theaters are nearly as extinct as dinosaurs.”
“They aren’t that extinct,” he said, chuckling. “I used to go to one every Saturday night with my parents. They would load all of us into the van. It was fun. The one we went to even had a playground.”
“Wow, you remember all of that?”
He nodded. “Yes. Those were special times for us, especially for me. After the folks died, that’s all I had left. The memories. My counselor suggested I write it down.”
She arched a brow. “Counselor?”
“Yes. Mrs. Harris. She was a grief counselor. Dillon and Ramsey thought it would be a good idea if we all went to see her. I think that’s when I decided I wanted to become a psychologist.”
She followed his lead and pressed the lever to let her seat back. Her legs weren’t as long as his, but it felt nice to stretch out. “You have a degree in psychology, yet you’ve never used it in your work. Why?”
“Because by the time I finished college it was all hands on deck at Blue Ridge Land Management,” he said. Blue Ridge was the family firm that his father and uncle had left behind. “Dillon and Ramsey were doing all they could to keep things going, and I felt my rightful place was to be there to help them. It was all about sacrifices.”
He shifted in his seat to face her. “In a way, going to work for Blue Ridge was a blessing.”
“In what way?”
“It showed me that I’m not suited for being indoors behind a desk. After a while, I felt boxed in. Caged. I knew that I couldn’t be a psychologist. I needed to work outside.”
“Then that partnership with your cousins came at the right time.”
He smiled. “Yes. Mainly because Derringer and Jason were ready to bail from Blue Ridge, as well. The three of us love horses, and our fathers taught us to ride when we were knee-high. So when our cousins in Montana decided to expand their horse training and breeding business, there was no doubt in our minds that we were on board.”
She nodded. One of the things she’d missed after leaving Denver was talking to Zane. They had a rapport that had made it easy to talk about anything. Or almost anything. She’d just realized he had never before shared with her why he’d pursued a degree in psychology instead of a degree in business like his brother Derringer and several of his cousins. She knew his brother Ramsey had gone to school for some type of agricultural degree since he’d always wanted to be a sheep rancher.
“Was Dillon upset because the three of you defected at once?”
Zane chuckled. “No, he understood. He’d known Blue Ridge wasn’t in our blood any more than it had been in Ramsey’s. Some people are born to be corporate leaders, and some are not. Besides, Riley and Stern were eager to take their places at the company. Even Canyon was gung ho once he decided being a doctor wasn’t for him.”