Ever curious how Tanner and Isaac felt during that last scene in ENTICE? Well, here’s your chance to find out:
As I neared Kenzie’s house my palms clammed up. I could hardly wait to see her reaction when I surprised her. Earlier I’d contemplated calling her, but I figured showing up unexpectedly would be part of the fun. She seemed so sad last time I talked with her. Clearly she was bummed that we wouldn’t be together for the holidays. I was sure she would be overjoyed when I showed up.
I turned the corner and pulled on to Kenzie’s street, my heart pounding in my chest. I missed her so much. It would feel so good to hold her in my arms again, to kiss her lips. Besides, not that I wanted to admit it, but I was a little worried about her spending all her time with that other dude. I knew long distance relationships were hard, and I was determined to make ours work. Spending some time together would rekindle what we had and hopefully keep the other guy away.
I scoured the street numbers on the houses, searching for Kenzie’s. Not that I needed the numbers. She was standing outside. A smile almost broke out on my face, but then I sucked in a breath. She wasn’t alone. She was with another guy. My stomach tightened. I was sure it was him. Tanner. The one she’d spent all her time with lately. Jealousy reared its ugly head. It was an emotion I wasn’t entirely familiar with and I didn’t like it. As I pulled my car up to the curb in front of her house, I kept my gaze on the two of them. They didn’t even notice me.
It was as if they were the only two people in the world, the way they stared into each other’s eyes so intensely. His hand was on her cheek, and anger boiled inside of me. How dare he touch her? Didn’t he realize she had a boyfriend?
I opened the door and stepped out of the car, reaching for my duffle bag. When I turned to face them, I gasped in horror. They looked like they were about to kiss.
Kenzie saw me first, her eyes widening. “W-w-what are you doing here?” she asked.
Her reaction stung. Not quite what I had been hoping for. “I came to surprise you. But I guess I’m the one who’s surprised.” I dropped the gym bag and stared hard at my feet. I felt angry, embarrassed and betrayed. I wished I’d never came.
Kenzie stepped away from Tanner and toward me. “It’s not what it looks like,” she said.
“It’s not?” Tanner asked.
Kenzie threw him a sharp look. Irritation rose in me at his reaction. What a jerk. Then again, I couldn’t exactly pin the whole thing on him, could I?
“What is it then, Kenzie?” I asked, hoping she’d have some explanation that would make this whole thing go away.
“Hey, be easy on her, okay,” Tanner said. “She’s had a rough night.”
As if I needed him to defend her against me? The whole thing was laughable. But then I glanced over at Kenzie and saw what my anger had kept me from seeing before. Clearly she’d had a rough night. Her eyes drooped and were ringed in red, her face unnaturally pale.
Why hadn’t she told me what was going on? I turned to Tanner. “I had no idea. Apparently, you’re the one she’s confiding in now.”
“That’s not true,” Kenzie said., desperation in her voice. “I called you before calling Tanner but you didn’t pick up.”
“You called him first?” Tanner’s face fell.
I felt bad about the triumphant feeling that stirred in me upon seeing his reaction. “I was probably on my way here. I’m so sorry I wasn’t there for you.” I wanted to take her in my arms, but I just couldn’t do it. Instead, I shoved my hands deep in my pockets.
“Well, that’s how it’s been for the past three months. Kenzie’s been through a lot and you weren’t around,” Tanner said to me. “I was.”
“It’s not because I didn’t want to. Man, believe me. I wanted nothing more. But I don’t live here.”
“Well, she needed someone who could be here for her,” Tanner countered.
I groaned, completely disgusted with this guy. Did he really think that just because I didn’t live here that justified him hitting on Kenzie? “I can’t believe I was actually glad she had you looking out for her, man.” I shook my head. “I mean, seriously, what kind of guy hits on another guy’s girlfriend?”
“It wasn’t like that. We were just friends. I didn’t mean for it to turn into anything more. But then I fell in love with her. I wasn’t trying to.”
His words felt like a punch in the gut. I ran a hand over my face. “What?” I looked up at Kenzie, searching her eyes for an answer. This had gone a lot farther than I ever imagined. When I first walked up I thought maybe they’d just gotten caught up in an emotional moment. But he loved her? Clearly this was deeper than just a slip up.
Kenzie appeared bewildered. She just stood frozen in place in the middle of the yard, her mouth gaping. Despite how ragged she appeared she was still so beautiful. It tugged at my heart. Not for the first time, I wished this had all gone differently.
“Kenzie,” I finally asked, “do you love him too?”
I expected her to immediately deny it. I mean, she’d been assuring me for months that they were just friends. Could she have been lying the whole time? Instead, she stared at her feet, biting her lip. My heart squeezed. “I see.”
She rushed toward me. “No. Isaac, you don’t understand.” Her arms stretched out to me, her fingers almost grazing my arm, but then she lowered them. I longed to feel her touch, to wrap her in my arms, but everything was spiraling out of control.
Kenzie’s voice was barely above a whisper when she spoke. “I love you, Isaac. I do. That hasn’t changed. It’s just that Tanner and I have spent a lot of time together and we’ve been through a lot.” She looked back at Tanner, and I felt sick when I saw the tender look she gave him. I wanted to punch that expectant look right off his face. “I care about him.” When she faced me again, I swallowed hard. “I care about both of you.”
I sighed. My heart just couldn’t take anymore of the back and forth. This needed to end now. “You can’t have us both.”
“He’s right,” Tanner chimed in. “You have to choose.”
Kenzie bit her lip and stared into my eyes. I saw the love she felt for me in them, but I also saw an uncertainty that was never there before.
“Kenzie?” Tanner asked, drawing her gaze away from me. Her head swiveled in his direction and it killed me. I didn’t know what I would do if she chose him. It would break my heart.
“Kenzie?” I asked, practically pleading. When she turned toward me, I knew she had made her decision. I could see it in her eyes.
Now it’s Tanner’s turn to share his perspective. Read on to see what he was thinking.
Kenzie and I stood outside in the cool night air. The moon illuminated the space around us, glowing against the dark night sky.
“Thank you for coming to my rescue tonight. I’m so glad you did. I couldn’t have done this without you,” Kenzie said softly.
“Of course. I would do anything for you, you know that.” I let out a ragged breath, my heart speeding up at our close proximity.
“You’ve been a godsend to me the last few months. How did I get so lucky to have you in my life?”
“It wasn’t luck,” I said. “I believe God brought us together for a reason. You have been so helpful to me. I don’t know how I would’ve gotten through the first few months of my faith journey without you.”
“Well, you would’ve been safer and you would have had a lot less drama, that’s for sure.” She laughed, and my heart swelled at the sound. I loved to see her happy, especially after all she’d been through. I’d do anything to keep Kenzie smiling like that all the time.
“It wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun though.” I smiled. “Seriously though, you’ve shown me so much grace and taught me so much about what it means to be a Christian.”
“Wow, I never thought I’d hear someone say that about me.” Kenzie’s cheeks reddened.
“See, that’s an example of humility right there.” I chuckled.
Kenzie giggled. Before I could stop myself, I reached out my hand and grazed her cheek. It felt warm and soft. I swallowed hard as she leaned into it, her eyelids fluttering. A car engine rumbled down the street, a door slammed. But I didn’t dare move away from her. I had been holding back my true feelings for so long. Even though I knew Kenzie had a boyfriend, I hadn’t been able to stop myself from falling for her. We’d grown so close lately. I titled my chin and lowered my face to hers. When she didn’t pull away, my heart hammered loudly in my ears. Taking a deep breath, I brought my lips close to hers. So close I could feel her breath mingling with mine. I had been imagining this moment for months, and now it was finally here. I closed my eyes and was just about to press my mouth against hers, when I heard footsteps behind me and a sharp intake of breath. Kenzie gasped and stepped away from me.
Dread descended in the pit of my stomach when I whirled around and saw some dude wearing gym shorts and t-shirt standing near the curb. He held a duffle bag in his hand. I instantly recognized him from the pictures. It was Isaac.
“W-w-what are you doing here?” Kenzie asked him.
Yeah, good question.
“I came to surprise you. But I guess I’m the one who’s surprised.” Isaac dropped the bag he held in his hand. His shoulders drooped. His eyes were downcast.
I knew I should have felt guilty, but instead I felt irritated. I mean, he showed up at the worst possible moment.
When Kenzie moved away from me and toward him, my heart dropped. “It’s not what it looks like,” she said, and her words pierced me like a knife.
“It’s not?” I asked.
She threw me a sharp look.
“What is it then, Kenzie?” Isaac asked harshly, drawing her attention back to him.
“Hey, be easy on her, okay,” I said, my anger flaring. “She’s had a rough night.”
I felt bad for Kenzie. She looked like she was going to throw up.
Isaac narrowed his eyes at me. “I had no idea. Apparently, you’re the one she’s confiding in now.”
“That’s not true,” Kenzie said to him. “I called you before calling Tanner but you didn’t pick up.”
“You called him first?” Her words stung, and I couldn’t keep the betrayal out of my voice.
“I was probably on my way here. I’m so sorry I wasn’t there for you.” Isaac tucked his hands in his pockets and gave Kenzie a sheepish look. Kenzie stared back at him, and I could see in her eyes how much she wanted the guy. I couldn’t let her forget me, and go running to him. Not yet.
“Well, that’s how it’s been for the past three months. Kenzie’s been through a lot and you weren’t around,” I said to Isaac. “I was.”
“It’s not because I didn’t want to. Man, believe me. I wanted nothing more. But I don’t live here.”
“Well, she needed someone who could be here for her,” I countered.
Isaac groaned. “I can’t believe I was actually glad she had you looking out for her, man.” He shook his head in disgust. “I mean, seriously, what kind of guy hits on another guy’s girlfriend?”
I hated that he was making assumptions like that about me. I wasn’t a bad guy. I didn’t plan this. “It wasn’t like that. We were just friends. I didn’t mean for it to turn into anything more. But then I fell in love with her. I wasn’t trying to.”
Isaac ran a hand over his face. “What?” He looked at Kenzie, as if searching her eyes for an answer. “Kenzie,” he said, “do you love him too?”
I held my breath, waiting for her to respond. Only she didn’t. She just stared at her feet, biting her lip. Even though I wanted her to tell him she did love me, I did feel a little triumphant that she hadn’t said no. Clearly she was wrestling with feelings for me, since she hadn’t completely denied them. Isaac must have realized the same thing because his face fell and he said, “I see.”
But then Kenzie rushed to him. “No. Isaac, you don’t understand.” For a minute I thought she was going to touch him, to take him in her arms, but then she stopped in front of him like she was frozen. I let out a sigh of relief. I didn’t think I could handle watching her touch the guy.
Tears filled her eyes. “I love you, Isaac. I do. That hasn’t changed.”
Her words were hard to hear, but then she continued, “It’s just that Tanner and I have spent a lot of time together and we’ve been through a lot.” She looked up at me and I could see the turmoil in her eyes. I could tell she did care for me, even more than I had thought. My heart soared. “I care about him.” But then she turned from me and faced Isaac again. “I care about both of you.”
Isaac sighed. “You can’t have us both.”
“He’s right,” I chimed in. I was done with this. My heart couldn’t take anymore. “You have to choose.”
She turned away from me and stared at Isaac. My chest tightened. Was this it? Was this when she would choose him? Was it over?
“Kenzie?” I pulled her attention back to me. When she whipped around, we locked eyes. In that moment, I knew she had chosen. Her answer was written clear as day across her face.