By: Brenda Jackson

  She gently grabbed his wrist and saw the scratches her hands had made trying to hold on to him. “Why, Zane? Why would you risk your life to save mine?”

  Zane sighed deeply. Now more than ever he had to make her understand…and believe. “Because I don’t have a life without you, Channing. I told you while you were in that quicksand, and I meant it.”

  She didn’t say anything for a minute and then slowly released his hand. “But I heard what you told Canyon, Zane,” she said accusingly. “You told him that you were not falling in love with me. That you’d only told me that.”

  So he’d been right. She had overheard the first part of his conversation with Canyon. “Yes, I told him that.”

  He saw the crushed look that appeared on her face, and when she made a move to turn her back to him, he said, “But you ran off before overhearing the rest of our conversation, Channing. Had you stuck around, you would have heard me clarify what I meant. The reason I can’t fall in love with you is because I’m already in love with you.”

  He shifted to lie beside her in the bed. He needed to touch her. To hold her.

  “I knew when I left Denver to come here that I loved you. And it happened just like I said. But you didn’t believe me, Channing. You thought I was confusing love and lust. But I knew how I felt. It was you who had doubt. So I came up with a plan.

  “Since you thought I wasn’t in love with you, I wanted to let you think I was falling in love with you. If you needed to see the transformation, then I had no problem showing it to you. For I am a changed man, Channing. I’ve never loved any woman before, but I do love you. I want to give you my love. I want to give you my name, and I want to give you my babies.”

  He eased off the bed and went to the drawer where he’d placed the items he’d taken out of his luggage. He reached inside and pulled out the locked box and carried it over to the bed. “This box holds all my treasures. I purchased it the day after you left town,” he said, taking the key out of his pocket.

  “This is what kept me going after you left me, Channing. All I had were the memories.”

  Channing slowly eased up in bed, fighting against the pain of doing so. Her eyes widened when Zane pulled out the calendar she’d given him a few years ago. “You kept that?” she asked, surprised.

  “Yes, and it was my lifeline. I would spend hours and hours looking through it and was too stupid to figure out why.” He placed the calendar aside and pulled out another item. The gold chain.

  Channing gasped again, surprised. “I thought…”

  “What did you think, Channing? That I would pawn it? Give it to another woman? I bought it for you and only you,” he said, reaching out and placing it around her neck where it belonged. “I didn’t want it back, but you insisted. So I kept it in here, and this is where it’s been ever since.”

  He didn’t say anything for a long moment. “The last item in here is something you haven’t seen before. Something I purchased before leaving Denver to come here. It’s something I intended to give you when the time was right. When I knew I had convinced you that I loved you.”

  He reached inside and pulled out a small white jeweler’s box and handed it to her.

  Channing held Zane’s gaze as she took the box from him. Her heart began beating fast and furious in her chest. She broke eye contact with him to open the lid and then gasped at the beautiful diamond ring.

  “Channing, will you marry me? I love you so much, and I don’t want to be separated from you for a single night. If I have to move to Atlanta, that’s fine. I have family there already. If you and I need to split our time in Denver and Atlanta in an arrangement like Rico and Megan’s, then that’s fine, too.”

  Tears Channing couldn’t hold back any longer flowed down her cheeks. A misunderstanding had almost cost her her life tonight. Because she hadn’t believed Zane’s words of love. He’d been saying it, but tonight, in saving her life the way he had, he had shown it.

  “So, do you need to think about my proposal?” he asked, breaking into her thoughts.

  She swiped at her tears. “No, I don’t need to think about it. I love you, and I believe you love me. Tonight you proved just how much.”

  “I do love you,” Zane said, sliding the ring on her finger. “And I want a short engagement.”

  “I want that, too,” she said, smiling as she looked down at the ring, thinking how beautiful it was. “I’ll move from Atlanta to ‘Zane’s Hideout.’ While in Denver, Dr. Rowe, the chief of staff, made me an offer to come back to work at the hospital. I turned her down, but she said she would keep the offer open for six months.”

  Zane grinned, not believing how nicely things were falling into place. “Riley’s getting married in a couple of months, and I don’t want to rain on his parade, so what about the month after? That would be in October.”

  She smiled. “What about a Christmas wedding?”

  He let out a deep groan. “The wait will kill me.”

  She chuckled. “I’ll be there to help you manage. If I start the transfer paperwork next week, I can move back to Denver in another month.”

  “If you did, that would make me a happy man, sweetheart. You have a home already at the Hideout.” Conscious of her sore muscles, he shifted his body so he could lower his lips to hers.

  He then kissed her with all the love he felt in his heart.

  “Then consider it done,” she whispered a short while later when he let her come up for air.

  And then they sealed their engagement with another kiss.

Top Books