“The woman who survived the train wreck and who adopted Raphel’s son was Jeannette Outlaw. She named her son Levy—after her husband who was killed in the train accident. She moved to Detroit as a single mother and everyone assumed the child belonged to her deceased husband. She never told anyone anything different.”
Rico paused and then continued, “Levy Outlaw married at twenty-five, and he and his wife had one son, Javier. That’s where the trail stops. It seems Levy Outlaw, his wife and son moved away from Detroit, but we’re not sure of their final destination. My people are working on it.”
Rico leaned back against the counter. “The other news I wanted to share is that I found records on a woman by the name of Isabelle Connors who lived in Percy, Nevada. As you all know, Isabelle was documented as Raphel Westmoreland’s fourth wife.”
“Percy, Nevada?” Dillon asked, lifting a brow. “That’s where our great-grandmother Gemma was born and raised. Do you think there’s a chance that she and Isabelle knew each other?”
“That’s a possibility I’m checking out,” Rico said. A smile touched his lips. “Of course Megan is excited about the information I was able to find on Levy Outlaw.”
Ramsey grinned as he shook his head. “I bet she was. She’s determined to find more cousins to the Westmorelands.”
Rico chuckled. “Yes, and don’t be surprised if I do.”
* * *
“I want to know where Channing is, Rico,” Zane said after the meeting had ended and everyone had left. “I’m sure Megan told you.”
Rico took a sip of his coffee. “Yes, but Megan doesn’t think you need to know where Channing is. Your sister believes all you’re going to do is hurt her friend again.”
Zane didn’t say anything. Megan had pretty much made her thoughts damn clear. He had stayed up most of the night, walking the floor. Knowing he had hurt Channing to the point that she had left town had kept him awake. His sisters were right. He had been wrong.
He glanced over at Rico. “Yes?”
“If you found Channing, what would you do?”
Zane lowered his head and gazed down into his cup of coffee. He had asked himself that same question while walking the floor last night. He would apologize of course, but would that be enough? Lifting his head, he met Rico’s gaze. “I’m not sure,” he said honestly.
Rico nodded. “Then maybe you should be sure before you go looking for her. When a man goes after a woman, he needs to know why he’s doing it. He needs to have a game plan.”
Zane didn’t say anything, mainly because he’d never needed a game plan when it came to women.
“Do you know at what point I knew I loved your sister, Zane?”
Zane shrugged. He figured there was a reason Rico wanted to tell him this. “No. When?”
“I knew I loved your sister when I realized I couldn’t live a single day without her.” Rico took a sip of his coffee. “If you ever feel anything close to that kind of emotion, let me know and then I’ll tell you where Channing is.”
* * *
“I’m fine, Megan, really I am. Don’t worry. I love it here,” Channing said, stepping out onto the porch of her grandparents’ oceanside villa in the beautiful Kindle Shores community of Virginia Beach. The house and five others were on a private section of land that developers had been trying to purchase for years. However, like her grandparents, none of the owners were interested in selling.
“It’s been a while since I’ve been here, so maybe Zane did me a favor after all. In addition to reminding me what jerks some men can be, it made me realize I hadn’t taken time off from work in a while to rest, relax and regroup,” she said, sliding down into the porch swing.
The ocean looked beautiful. As a child, she enjoyed spending her summers here with her grandparents. Adele Hastings hadn’t asked any questions when her granddaughter had called saying she needed to come to the house and stay awhile. But Channing had still heard the concern in her grandmother’s voice when she’d told Channing where to find the key.
The moment Channing arrived and opened the door a sense of welcome had settled upon her. The memories of the summers she’d spent here were special. It was the time when she and all her cousins would get together to share their grandparents’ wisdom and love.
She’d seen how her grandparents had spruced up the place with painted walls, gleaming tile floors and all-new furniture. She liked the look and all the vibrant colors. When it came to decorating, her grandmother still had style.
“Well, if you need anything—and I mean anything at all—call me, Channing,” Megan said, interrupting Channing’s thoughts. “Again, I’m sorry about everything.”
“Don’t be. Zane warned me how things would be between us in the very beginning, but I let myself fall in love with him, anyway. As far as the other night at McKays, the desire was mutual. I wanted him, Megan. Your brother proved he’s still my weakness. I thought I had gotten over him, but evidently I haven’t. He’s not a man a woman can forget easily,” Channing admitted. “But I will,” she added with strong conviction.
“Well, it’s going to be a long time before he gets back in my good graces. At some point, he has to come to terms with the fact that he’s going to grow old alone,” Megan said in a tiff.
A few moments later, after ending her phone call, Channing stood to stretch and look out at the beach. The beautiful blue water was inviting, and she decided she would take a dip later. But for now, she would make a sandwich and start reading the suspense thriller she had picked up at the airport.
But once she sat back down, she couldn’t help thinking about what had happened over the past couple of days. Hurt and heartbroken, she had canceled her symposium with apologies and plans to reschedule and had flown from Denver to here. Upon arriving, she had gone shopping for enough food for the three weeks she intended to stay. On the first day, she had called Zane every god-awful name in the book. Then she’d called herself a damn fool and indulged in a good cry. The next day, she had gotten out and gone back into town to shop.
Her first stop had been a boutique where she’d found the most gorgeous pair of sandals. Deciding that she hadn’t treated herself to a day of beauty in a while, she’d visited a spa. A couple of hours later, with several new beach outfits, new sandals, a pedicure and manicured nails, she had returned to the beach house feeling a whole lot better. Pain and anger were no longer at war inside of her. She had reached the conclusion that no man would ever take her joy.
She’d also faced a few realities. It seemed her dream of love, marriage and family was just that—a dream. Some dreams weren’t meant for everyone. Zane had taught her that lesson. She couldn’t put her love and trust in a man who didn’t deserve it, a man who wasn’t capable of loving, a man who couldn’t make her happy. She wanted a man who simply adored her—the way she would adore him—a man who would love her, a man who wanted the same things she wanted, not because she wanted them but because they wanted them.
She’d meant what she’d told Megan. She appreciated Zane for making her realize just how naive she had been. She thought she had taken off the rose-colored glasses the last time she’d left Denver, but this time not only had she taken them off she’d tossed them into the sea. The next man she dated would have to work hard for her affections.
At that moment, she doubted she would ever fall in love again. She’d tried and lost her heart, and now it was time for her to get out of the game.
* * *
Zane turned over in bed and glanced at the clock. It was two in the morning. Sitting up, he ran a frustrated hand across his face. Once the haze of his anger over Channing’s engagement deception had shifted away, all he could see every time he closed his eyes was her stricken face. It hit him right below the gut each and every time he thought about hurting her.
Unable to sleep, he eased out of bed and went downstairs for a cold drink of water. However, when he opened the refrigerator it was a bottle of beer that he pulled out instead. Leaning against the countertop, he twisted off the bottle cap and took a huge swig, liking the feel of the liquid moving past his throat to hit solidly in his stomach.
He had built this house seven years ago, but this was the first time he’d realized just how lonely it was. His siblings and cousins visited often—and Bailey too much—but he never allowed women to consider his place as their home.
Except for Channing.
He had surprised even himself when he’d given her a key, but he had never questioned why he’d done so. All he’d known was those days when he would arrive home after working with the horses all day and see her car parked in his yard, sensations he couldn’t describe tugged at his chest. His mood would brighten as soon as he opened the door and saw her, and he would sweep her up in his arms and kiss her like his entire life depended on it.