He reached over and pulled his cell phone out of the shorts he had left on the chaise longue with his shirt. He checked the missed calls. “Canyon. Canyon. Canyon. Canyon and Canyon,” he said, grinning. “I told you.”
“Sounds like he needs to talk to you,” Channing said.
Zane shrugged. “He has woman issues.”
“And you being Dear Zane like Dear Abby will help him solve his problem, right?”
He chuckled. “Kinda. Sorta.” Then he held her gaze and said in a serious tone, “I know about women, yes. But with the one woman I should have known about and should have handled with the love and respect she deserved, I blew it.”
He watched as his words gave her pause. His heart pounded when she only smiled. He didn’t say anything, either. He wanted to let her think about what he’d just said.
“You want to go to the drive-in movies again tonight?” he asked her a short while later.
“Um, what’s playing?”
He chuckled. “Does it matter?” They had gone to the drive-in two other times and had totally enjoyed making out in the car.
She smiled over at him. “No, it doesn’t matter, and yes, I’d love to go to the drive-in with you tonight.”
* * *
“What do you want, Canyon?” Zane asked his cousin later that evening. He and Channing had enjoyed their time on the beach. Then, like he said he would, he had helped wash her hair…which led to other things. They had eaten dinner, and Channing had gone next door to give the Farmers a batch of the cookies she’d baked earlier that day.
“I can’t believe you’re just calling me back, Zane. I could have been dying,” Canyon snapped.
Zane rolled his eyes. “You’re talking to me now so you’re not dead. What do you want?”
“Keisha. I told her we should talk, but she says she doesn’t want to have anything to do with me.”
Zane glanced at his watch. He couldn’t wait to go to the movies with Channing. “Either take her at her word or do something about it. Action speaks louder than words.”
“I guess you would know. Word has it that you’re somewhere trying to convince Channing you’re falling in love with her.”
Zane heard the smirk in Canyon’s voice. “For your damn information, Canyon, I’m not falling in love with Channing. I just told her that.”
* * *
Channing had returned from next door and walked toward the bedroom to let Zane know she was back when the words he’d blared out to his cousin stopped her. Her head spun in shock at what he’d just said.
He was not falling in love with her?
He had lied to her?
Her body quivered in pain. He had been playing a game with her all along. A game with her heart.
Not able to handle what she was feeling, she turned, nearly blinded by her tears, and rushed back out of the house.
* * *
“What do you mean you just told her that?” Canyon asked. “Megan and Bailey are convinced you’re crazy about Channing and told us not to be surprised if you came back married.”
Not a bad idea, Zane thought, and knew he would give it more consideration later. “The reason I’m not falling in love with Channing is because I’m already in love with her. I realized just how much I loved her before I left Denver. But she doesn’t believe me. And I’m here to prove otherwise.”
Canyon didn’t say anything for a long moment. “So it’s true. Some woman has finally gotten to you?”
Zane smiled. “Yes. The same way a woman got to you, and once they get to you, Canyon, there’s not a damn thing you can do about it. If you want Keisha, then you need to go after her.”
“Damn it, Zane, she doesn’t trust me. She believes the worst about me.”
“Get over it, or live the rest of your life without her. There’s nothing you shouldn’t be able to forgive her for, even if it was her losing faith in you. From what I gather, Bonita Simpkins set you up pretty damn good, and I wouldn’t give her the satisfaction of knowing her plan worked.”
Zane glanced at his watch again. The movie would start in an hour. Channing had said she would be right back, and he couldn’t help but wonder what was taking her so long.
“Maybe you’re right,” Canyon said. “I went to Bonita when it happened and tried to get her to tell Keisha the truth, but she refused.”
Zane looked at his watch again. “Look, Canyon, I got to go. I’ve given you all the advice I’m going to give on this Keisha matter. You’re on your own from here on out. Goodbye.” He then clicked off the phone.
Moving out of the bedroom, he headed for the front door. Evidently Channing had gotten into a conversation with Jennifer and forgotten their date. He would just have to go next door and remind her.
* * *
Channing walked the beach as she swiped at the tears that couldn’t seem to stop flowing. When was she going to stop being a fool? And for the same man!
He had played her well, and what hurt her more than anything else was that there had been no need for him to do that. Why couldn’t he just let her go? Why did he have to follow her here with lies, lies and more lies? There was no way he could refute what he’d told Canyon. Words she’d heard with her own ears.
“I’m not falling in love with Channing. I just told her that.”
The memory made Channing cry harder, made her chest ache and her head hurt. It seemed she’d been walking the beach for hours when she knew it had only been a few minutes. Clenching her fist in anger, she turned around. It was time to go back and confront Zane, tell him he had played his last game on her…
She gasped when suddenly the sand beneath her feet gave away and she began to sink. “Oh, God!” She tried pulling her feet out, but it only made her sink deeper.
Frantically, she glanced around. It was pitch-dark, and she could barely see the lights from the homes at Kindle Shores. It occurred to her then just how far she had walked. She knew the area. It was one swimmers and sunbathers were warned to avoid for this very reason. Years ago, she had heard how a couple who had been strolling along this particular section of the beach had met their fate when they both went down in quicksand. They had drowned from the high tide before the search party had found them.
Channing willed herself not to panic. She had to try and remain calm. Each time she attempted to pull her feet free, she sank lower. What was she going to do? She didn’t have her cell phone with her and hadn’t told anyone where she was going. And why had she walked so close to the shoreline?
When she sank lower still, she fought back tears. Would Zane come looking for her? He should be the last person she wanted to see, but right now she would give anything to see his face. He had no idea where she was, but she had to believe he would come.
She had to believe that.
* * *
“Channing left here a half hour ago,” Jennifer said to Zane. “I was standing on the porch, and I watched her go inside. After that, I came in here to give the kids their baths.”
“I saw her go back out,” Ronald added, coming to stand beside his wife. “Channing hadn’t been inside her house more than a few minutes before she ran back out. I was still outside picking up the kids’ toys when I saw her. She was walking quickly down the beach.” He hesitated and then added, “She seemed upset about something.”
Upset? Zane frowned. Why would Channing be upset?
“I wouldn’t know why she would be upset,” he said. “Maybe she just wanted to take a walk before we went out. We’re supposed to be going to the movies.”
Jennifer nodded. “She did mention that. That’s the reason she said she had to rush back. So it’s strange for her to wander off when she seemed so eager to go out with you.”
Zane had to agree. That was strange. “Well, thanks. Hopefully she’ll be back soon,” he said, glancing down the dark stretch of beach. He couldn’t see a thing. The thought of Channing being out there didn’t sit well with him. It made him feel uneasy.
“On second thought, I think I’ll go look for her,” he said, walking off the Farmers’ porch.
“Need any help?” Ronald offered.
“No, I’ll probably meet her on her way back,” Zane said hopefully.
“If you don’t, you have my number,” Ronald reminded him. “Call me.”
“I will,” Zane said over his shoulder. Ronald had given Zane his number when Ronald had inquired about the purchase of a pony for his daughter. Zane had promised to check on it when he got back to Denver and give the man a call as to whether Born Free’s foal was for sale.
Zane began walking toward the beach, and that uneasy feeling just wouldn’t go away. Ronald had said Channing seemed upset, but Zane didn’t have a clue as to what could have upset her. Nothing had been awry when she’d left to take the food over to the Farmers. She had even given him a kiss before leaving.