The huge screen flared to life. When it showed visuals of what they had for sale at the snack bar, Channing heard her stomach growl. She glanced over at Zane. “Sorry.”
“No need to apologize. If you’re hungry, just grab something out of that basket. I have a lot of good stuff in there. Better stuff than what you’re seeing on the screen.”
Of course after he’d said that, Channing had to check it out and make sure. Taking off her seat belt, she rose up in the seat on her knees and reached in the backseat to uncover the basket. She was impressed. There were several meaty-looking sub sandwiches, bags of chips, an assortment of fruit and a bottle of red wine. Her favorite. But what really caught her eye were the two wine glasses. They were engraved in a beautiful gold script. One had her name on it, and the other had his.
A deep stirring spread in the center of Channing’s stomach. Why would he go out and do something like that? She grabbed a couple of sandwiches, the bottle of wine and both glasses. Turning back around, she straightened in her seat but didn’t put the seat belt back on.
She held up her bounty. “Nice wine glasses.”
“Thanks. I happened to see them in the hotel’s gift shop. I thought, wow, imagine that. Our names.”
Channing threw her head back and laughed. He was lying through his teeth. “Come on. Names like Channing and Zane? You want me to believe there’s another…” She stopped, coming short of saying the word couple. They were no longer a couple.
Zane didn’t have any misgivings. He finished the sentence for her. “Couple like us? Probably not, since we’re unique.”
She shrugged and handed him a sandwich. He took it, and she opened the wine and poured them both glasses. She handed his to him and said, “Um, smell the aroma. Isn’t it wonderful?”
He took a sip, met her gaze and held it. “I like your aroma better.”
Channing swallowed, wishing he hadn’t said that. It was bad enough sharing such close quarters with him, but to have him draw any level of intimacy into their conversation was too much. To keep things safe, she decided not to respond to what he’d said.
He’d told her often how he loved her scent, how it would turn him on. Well, she hoped he remembered their agreement about no sex. She wasn’t so sure he did remember—the car’s windows were tinted where no one could see them. Channing couldn’t help wondering if that was by choice or coincidence.
Before she could dwell on it any longer, the screen blared the announcement that the first movie was about to begin. So she ate her sandwich and sipped her wine while silence reigned between them. She refused to glance over at him. Instead, she stared straight ahead at the huge movie screen.
* * *
Zane’s blood pressure had spiked. He took a sip of his wine while eating his sandwich. Reaching back into the basket for a bag of chips, he ate them, as well. He enjoyed the meal all while inhaling Channing’s scent. How had he gone two years without the aroma he’d become addicted to?
He knew women pretty damn well. Every woman had her own unique scent. He knew the power that pheromones could have on a man. Channing had a way of luring him in with her scent each and every time.
Trying to get his mind off Channing for the time being, he wondered if the drive-in theaters would become a fad again. Gone were the days when you had to park next to a speaker pole and pull the speaker in through your car’s window. Due to modern technology, the sound was now transmitted through your car’s radio. Nice.
Because they’d arrived early, the lines had not been long, and they had found a good parking spot. The view of the screen was spectacular. He wasn’t a big John Travolta fan, but he knew Channing was. When he’d inquired at the hotel about where to take his lady that was casual, different and fun, the concierge had mentioned this place. Zane was glad he had.
Finally, he couldn’t help himself. He glanced over at Channing, only to find that it seemed as though she was really absorbed in the movie. How many times had she seen Grease? He’d given her the DVD, and when it had come to Denver as a play, he’d taken her to see that, as well.
She had finished off her sandwich and the last of her wine. “Want more wine?”
She gazed over at him. “No, I’ve had enough. Thanks.”
She turned back to the movie, but he continued watching her. Damn, he loved her. Whether she believed him or not, it had happened just the way he’d told her. The realization might have been late in coming, but it had punched him hard, first in the heart and then right between the eyes, making him see things he hadn’t seen before.
If she needed to see his transformation to believe him, then a transformation was what she would get. Tonight, he was starting off slow, smooth and seductive. He reached across the seat and took her hand in his. They used to hold hands all the time, but he could tell she was somewhat surprised by his gesture. She didn’t pull her hand away, but it felt stiff in his.
“Relax, Channing. I just want to hold your hand.”
He could say he wanted to do it because he loved her and he enjoyed touching her, but he figured she wasn’t ready to buy that. “I just do, okay?”
She shrugged with tense shoulders. “Okay.”
“And before you get rigid and unbending, I haven’t forgotten your ‘no sex’ rule.”
She relaxed somewhat. “I was beginning to wonder.”
He chuckled. “Why?”
“Because you’re touching me.”
He lifted a brow. “Was I not supposed to?”
She shook her head. “It brings back memories.”
He smiled. “But memories are good, right?”
Her chin lifted. “Some are. Some aren’t.”
The last thing he wanted was for her to think about the bad memories he’d caused. “Slide over here for a minute,” he said, tightening his hand on hers.
She hesitated but then slid across the seat toward him. He folded up the center console to make a bench seat. He didn’t want anything separating them. Satisfied with their closeness, he wrapped his arms around her shoulders. “That’s better. I like you plastered against me like this. I missed this, Channing. The closeness. The intimacy,” he said truthfully. He hadn’t realized just how much until now.
“It was your choice,” she said, and he heard the bitterness in her tone.
“I know. My mistake,” he countered softly.
She glanced over at him, and he saw the reservation in her eyes. He knew he would do anything to remove that look. “It was hard for me after you left, Channing.”
She asked as if she didn’t believe him. “Yes. I was in a bad way mainly because I couldn’t believe you’d left. You said you were leaving. You even went through all the motions of leaving, but I just couldn’t get it through my head that you were actually going to do it. For a long time, I was in a state of denial.”
She frowned, narrowing her eyes. “Why? Because you’re the great Zane Westmoreland, and women aren’t supposed to leave you? It’s supposed to be the other way around?”
He didn’t say anything for a minute. “I thought that was the reason at first,” he said truthfully. “But then…”
She looked searchingly at him. “But what?”
“I felt the loss,” he said hoarsely. “I actually felt it. And when it hit me that you wouldn’t be back, I developed a bad attitude. It was so awful that no one in my family wanted to be around me. Dillon had to step in a few times to keep me and my other cousins or brothers from exchanging blows. I was filled with so much anger that just about anything could set me off.”
Channing stayed silent. She’d talked to Megan a few times after moving to Atlanta, and his sister hadn’t mentioned anything about Zane’s bad temperament. But then she and Megan had agreed not to bring him up in any of their conversations. However, hearing what he was saying now made her ask, “Why, Zane? Why did my leaving upset you when you told me there could never be anything permanent between us?”
Zane sighed deeply as he thought about what she’d asked. How could he link the fear he’d felt at her departure to the same fear he’d felt when his parents had died? After she’d left Denver, he hadn’t been able to handle the loneliness and emptiness within him. And when he had compared those feelings to the void he hadn’t ever wanted to feel again, he’d withdrawn. He’d resolved never to let down his guard with any woman like he’d done with her.
He could hear impatience in her voice. She wanted an answer, and he knew she deserved one. However, how could he explain it in a way that she would understand? A way where she could connect the dots the way he finally had?
Zane held her gaze and forced himself not to pull her into his arms and kiss her instead of answering her. He couldn’t do that this time. He had to make sure he laid out everything she needed to see.