Too Little, Too Late?

By BillieK26

"Layla, get the door," Evangeline yelled from her bathroom, where she stared into the mirror.

"Yes maíam, your highness," Layla replied in a sarcastic tone.

"Thank you!"

Six months ago, Evangeline wouldnít have thought she would be going out with anyone on New Yearsí Eve, but here she was putting on makeup and doing a final check of her hair. What a difference a few weeks could make.

Cristian was finally out of jail and Carlo was in Federal Prison for kidnapping. Carlo still had contacts, but the Bureau had evidence on many of his ties on the outside and had already made arrests. Carlo was done and not a moment too soon. The hit he had on Evangeline had almost claimed her life in what would have been noted an accidental death had Jude not gotten to her in time. Not only did he save her life, but he caught the would-be assassin.

Jude Patterson, her hero. The thought of him brought a smile to her lips. When the Philadelphia Field Office of the Bureau assigned him to her for protection, she had resisted, but he hadnít taken ĎNoí for an answer. He had charmed her into allowing him into her inner circle. Now that he was no longer her protector, he was her date. She was actually excited about tonight. Jude wasnít like any man she had ever met.

As her bodyguard, he had moved into her apartment. A couple of late nights resulted in the two getting to know each other. Jude had shared a lot about his life. In those few short weeks, heíd become a good friend.

Evangeline finally noticed the quiet in her apartment. There had to be something wrong, Layla was never quiet. Walking out of her bedroom, Evangeline encountered the last person she expected to see.

"John, what are you doing here?" she asked, then glanced around the room. She turned her gaze back to him, before continuing, "Whereís Layla?"

"As soon as she answered the door, she said she had something to do and left."

John looked uncertain, definitely not a John McBain trait. The jeans and sweater looked liked heíd slept in them. Evangeline didnít have time for this.

"Great. That answers one of my questions. How about an answer to the other?"

"Youíre beautiful." Johnís eyes stroked her from head to toe.

"JohnÖ"

"I needed to see you," he said, staring into her eyes. She felt like he was trying to see into her soul. Well, too bad Ė her soul was closed to him.

"For what?"

"I need to talk to you."

"John, I donít have time. If itís something professional, call my office for an appointment. If itís personal, thereís nothing to talk about."

"This is hard enough; can you give me a break?"

That stopped her in her tracks. Did he listen to himself? Why should she give him a break about anything? Yes, they had worked together to get Cris freed, but that was all there was between them. Thatís all there could be.

"No. My life finally has some semblance of order. Iím not confusing that again."

"Youíre still in love with me."

"Are you serious? So what? The fact that I love you doesnít matter. Iíve been hurt enough by you. Plenty of the hurt is my own fault and I refuse to even flirt with any of this again."

"I love you," he whispered.

Finally, he said the words she longed to hear and they meant so little. Yes, he was done with Natalie. Heíd helped in saving Cristian and while Cris and Natalie were no longer together, Johnís need to protect and save her appeared to have vanished.

Natalie was quick to blame Evangeline for her ruined relationships with both her husband and John whenever Evangeline was in the station. It was sad that the girl never looked at herself and the hand she might have played in the disasters of her own life. Well, life would smack her down again soon enough and maybe this time sheíd get enough insight to better herself, either way none of this mattered.

Evangeline shook her head and gave a chuckle that was void of humor.

"John, you have some nerve. You come here on New Yearsí Eve to tell me ĎYou love meí. Thatís rich. Why should I care?"

"You just admitted that you love me. We can make this work."

"I donít want to make anything work, John. Iím tired of fighting to make everything with you work. What the past few months showed me was that you didnít care how much you made yourself pay penance and by extension how much you hurt me. You may think Iím the strongest person you know and maybe I am, but that doesnít excuse your disregard. I wonít go back."

"I donít want you to go back. I want us to start over."

"No. I am done. I made a promise to myself that when I got Cris out, I was done with this whole mess and I am," she said with complete conviction. "You need to move past this."

"I canít. I need you."

"You canít have me," Evangeline said, glancing at her watch. "I have a date, so I need to ask you to leave."

The nerve in Johnís jaw clenched, but he moved toward the door. Evangeline was relieved; she didnít know how much more of this little chat she could stand.

"This isnít over. I know I hurt you, but we are far from over. The feelings are still there and when I prove that you can trust me with yours, again, weíll be together. Bet on it," John said as he opened the door and left without a backwards glance.

Evangeline sank to the ottoman. What was she going to do? She still had feelings for John, but she would fight them every step of the way. The hurt sheíd experienced at his hand wasnít something she ever planned to repeat.

###

John stood outside the door for a long moment and sighed. That hadnít gone the way heíd wanted, but he wasnít surprised. Evangeline had told him months prior that they had to be over. What was he going to do to change her mind? Oddly enough the time heíd spent with Natalie had forced him to face what his love for Evangeline hadnít.

All the drama with Cris made him deal with why heíd taken it upon himself to protect Natalie. His fatherís death and later Caitlynís had scarred him and left him with the belief that he was the reason things happened to people he cared about. While that belief was irrational, it had been born when he was ten years old and his mind had cultivated it for over 20.

Now, heíd finally faced who and what he was Ė a coward. He refused to honor his fatherís memory as such and as a result had made this attempt to do what his father would have wanted for him. John had taken the first step in his fight to be happy Ė for the first time in his life. The only way for him to find that happiness was to get Evangeline back. She was the one person who made it worth it and he was going to get her back, no matter what she said.

"Dad, youíre right I deserve to be happy and Iím going to be - with Evangeline. She just doesnít know it," John said with a smile.

He had once told Evangeline that he had never planned anything in his whole life. Well, that was about to change, because he planned to get her back and heíd do whatever to make that happen.

"Watch out Ms. Williamson. Youíre in for the ride of your life," John said with a glance back at Evangelineís door. He moved to the elevator and practically ran over Jude Patterson when the doors opened.

"John? Hey, man, what are you doing here?"

"I just stopped by to see Evangeline about something."

"Oh really? I hope you didnít hold her up," Jude said with a smirk and thumped John on the back. "Iíve got plans for her tonight."

"You two are going out tonight?" John asked with concern. Heíd known she was going out; she had said as much, but he never thought it would be with Jude. How had this happened? Why hadnít he seen it?

"Yeah. Sheís single. Iím single. Weíre friends and I want to see if we can be more than that. Philadelphia isnít that far away."

"Yeah, well, sheís pretty busy with work and everything. You sure she has time for more between you?"

"I donít know, but Iíve been pretty good in the past at getting her to change her mind."

Jude obviously didnít see Johnís hands clench or the vein in his temple pulsate. For Jude to be an investigator he wasnít very observant or he would have stopped talking about changing Evangelineís mind.

"Well, you guys have a good time. Iíll see you around," John said and pressed the button again for the elevator that had closed during his conversation. The doors opened momentarily and John stepped inside.

"See you," Jude responded. "Happy New Year."

"Happy New Year to you," John said as the doors closed. To himself, he added, "Donít get used to this Jude, it wonít last. Iím going to make sure of it."

###

Evangeline was still sitting on the ottoman when the doorbell rang. She couldnít deal with John anymore and went to the door with every intention of telling him that. Evangeline opened the door without looking and said, "I donít have time for Ö"

She stopped when she realized Jude was standing in the doorway. Evangeline smiled through the embarrassment. What a way to start their first date.

"Sorry, I thought you were someone else," she said.

"I gathered that. Iíve told you not to open your door without knowing whoís there."

"I know. I thought I knew who it was."

"Well, next time, check. Please," Jude said with worry.

"I will. I promise," she said, without looking up at him.

"Back to you answering the door, is everything okay? I hope it wonít ruin the evening."

"Everythingís fine. Iím looking forward to spending the evening with you. I know weíll have fun," she answered with a smile. Jude was a great guy who from what heíd told her came from a functional family Ė normal childhood with multiple sisters and brothers. He was handsome with a mocha complexion and dimples that were to die for. Jude was successful and open; just the kind of guy she should want. Why didnít she?

"That is my plan. Are you ready?"

"I just need to grab my coat and bag."

"Go ahead and weíll get out of here."

Evangeline went into her bedroom and leaned back against the closed door. She took a deep shuddering breath. Evangeline wanted to move past John, but she wasnít sure she could. Every time she turned around there he was, even if it was only in her head. When he had told her earlier that he loved her for a moment all she wanted was to rush into his arms, then she remembered all the times she had needed him to say the words and he couldnít. After all this time, three little words opened wounds that had only begun to heal. Evangeline would like to think it was too little, too late, but was it? Only time would tell.

THE END