Chapter 1

"Johnny, hurry up. Your dad will be here any minute."

"Iím hurrying, mom."

Evangeline sighed as she glanced at the stairs again.

"What are you doing?"

"Iím getting my model car kit and my playing cards."

"Johnny, youíre not going to have time to play with those. You and dad are going to your baseball practice."

"But I want to show them to dad."

"Okay, just hurry," she said as the doorbell rang. "Johnny, thatís your dad. Come on." She opened the door as her seven-year-old son answered.

"Iím coming," he replied and she sighed again, before looking into the eyes of her husband. She stepped back, inviting him into the foyer of the house theyíd shared until recently.

"Hi, John."

"Hey."

"How are you? You look tired."

"Iím good. How are you?"

"Iím fine. Johnny will be down in a minute. He has some thing that he wants to show you while you two are together."

"Iím sure," he said with a smile. Ever since John had moved out, Johnny always had some thing to show his dad.

"Are you hungry?" she asked as she always did. She knew he didnít take the best care of himself. Before they married, heíd lived off coffee and junk food. She felt responsible for him. Theyíd been separated for a month and she knew how lost he must feel. She liked to blame him, but within herself she knew that she was just as much at fault.

"No, but thanks. I canít believe you are trying to take care of me," he said with a smile.

"Me, either," she said nonchalantly and was about to continue when she heard footsteps on the stairs.

"Hey, dad," Johnny said as he came down the steps and went straight to his father for a hug. He missed seeing his dad everyday. He was a daddyís boy, but his job was protecting his mom since he was now the man of the house. "Iím ready."

He walked to his mom for a hug and wrapped his arm around her thigh. "What are you going to do while Iím gone?"

"I have a meeting with a client. You just have fun with your dad and Iíll see you tonight okay?" she said rubbing a hand over his head. Johnny was a striking child. He was a lanky little boy that was tall for his age; with skin the color of honey and startlingly beautiful grey eyes. His black hair was thick and wavy.

"Okay. You sure, youíll be okay?"

"Iím sure. Thank you for taking care of me," she responded with a smile and took his little face between her hands. She rubbed noses with him, which resulted in boyish giggles, and then placed a kiss on his forehead. "You be a good boy for your dad."

John missed coming home to this. He knew he was an obsessive personality. Evangeline knew it too. She had come to him many times about the amount of time he spent working. He hadnít understood how important his being there with her and Johnny was until it was too late.

"I will. Iíll see you later," Johnny replied nonchalantly.

"You bet," she replied and then looked at John, "Iíll see you later."

"Yeah," he said quietly. "Come on buddy. Letís hit the road."

When Johnny came along, Evangeline had made all sorts of changes to her schedule and her life. Changes she hadnít even considered when theyíd married and John had been relegated to the back seat. He didnít fault her for that because he loved his son dearly, but heíd been jealous. He hated to admit it, but he wanted some of her time and attention too. So instead of telling her that, heíd spent more time working. Work was the one place that he was always needed and since Evangeline had everything under control at home, he could spend his time taking care of other things.

It had been a long time since John had lived with them, but Evangeline still missed him. Was she still in love with him? Absolutely, but she knew that she couldnít live with him the way they had lived before.

His work was just as important as hers and she knew that he had a savior complex. It was one of the things that sheíd fallen in love with, but she never saw him and she refused to put herself or her son through that. It was easier for her to know that he wasnít coming home than to stay up nights waiting for him to arrive. So sheíd asked for the separation. She hadnít really expected it to happen. Sheíd expected him to fight her on the subject. He hadnít. Now, at least, he was there more often.

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"Dad, why are you and mom separated?" Johnny asked from the passenger seat.

"Johnny, weíve talked about this. Mom and I just grew apart and its better that we donít live together right now."

"Why? Donít you still love mom?"

"Yes, Johnny. I love your mother, but that doesnít mean that we can live together."

"Well, you should try harder. You always tell me that I can do anything if I work hard and give it my best. You and mom gave up," he said with a frown and turned his head to look out the window.

John sighed and didnít respond. Out of the mouth of babes.

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Evangeline arrived at the Palace for her dinner meeting. She had no idea what the client looked like. A friend of hers in Pine Valley had referred the client to her. Zach Slater was supposedly very wealthy and a man who walked to the beat of his own drum. She wasnít totally sure what he needed with her, but when Olivia Frye had told her that she thought she should see Zach, sheíd agreed.

She glanced around the room and noticed a man sitting alone. He glanced at his watch and looked slightly irritated. She took a chance and approached the table.

"Mr. Slater?"

"Yes," he said, noticing the woman standing next to his table. How does she know my name?

"Iím Evangeline McBain. You wanted to discuss a legal matter?"

"Ms. McBain, thank you for taking the time to meet with me. I know that youíre one of the best attorneyís in Pennsylvania. Olivia Frye explained that you have a heavy workload," he said rising from his chair and holding one for her. He hadnít expected the best attorney in the surrounding areas to be an absolutely beautiful woman. Why wasnít she a model? She was willowy and could definitely carry it off.

"Itís Mrs., but please call me Evangeline, and yes, you could say that I have a pretty heavy workload," she said with a smile, thinking of Johnny. Sheíd cut back taking as many cases so she could be home when Johnny got home from school and actually spend time with him. She still had more than enough clients and because of her reputation, there was always someone approaching her about taking them on, as well.

"Thank you again for meeting me. I wanted to talk to you about a personal matter. My son, Ethan, just found out that Iím his father. He hates me."

"Why, Mr. Cambias?"

"Call me Zach. I wasnít the one to tell him. In fact, I tried to keep it from him."

"Why would you do that?" she asked with a confused frown.

"I was trying to protect him from a family legacy that is far from stellar. My father and brother were monsters. I didnít want him to live in their shadow. Now, heís found out on his own and he wonít even talk to me. My father was Alexander Cambias."

"The billionaire industrialist?"

"Yes, and when he died he left his entire fortune to his grandchildren. That would be my son and my niece. I want to make sure that they are safe."

"Where do I come into this?"

"I need to get control of the company to protect them. Someone else was running the company and their life was threatened. I canít have anything happen to my son or niece. Not because of my fatherís money."

"Has your son taken control of the company since he found out?"

"No, and I want to keep it that way."

"You do understand that this could push your son farther away?"

"I know that, but I have to do what I have to do to protect him."

"I understand that. I have a little boy and I would do anything to keep him safe."

"Then youíll take the case?"

"Iíll take the case, but only if you attempt to work this out with your son first."

"Why is that important to you?"

"Iím a mother who loves my son more than anything. I and my husband are separated and I know how much my son has hurt thinking that somehow itís his fault. It has taken a lot of talking and hugging to get him to see that no matter what, heís loved and by no means at fault. I can only imagine what your son is going through thinking that you didnít want him in the first place. You need to keep at it with him."

"What if I donít?" He could tell that this was an important topic to her, but he wanted to know just how important. He had noticed when she mentioned her husband a sadness had filled her eyes. She still cared deeply for the man and he must have been a fool to let her go.

"Find yourself another attorney," she said with a determined look on her face.

"You mean that, donít you?"

"Absolutely."

"Okay, Iíll try," he said. He liked Evangelineís resolve. He knew that she was not impressed by him and that she would definitely walk if he didnít do what she wanted.

Evangeline placed her hand on his forearm and smiled, before saying, "Then, you have yourself a lawyer. You wonít regret it."

"Mom?" she heard from behind her. She turned in her chair just as a bundle of energy wrapped himself around her neck.

"Johnny, what are you doing here?" she asked with a surprised smile.

"Dad and I are meeting Uncle Michael for desert."

"Really? Oh, where are my manners? Zach Slater, meet John Robert McBain. Johnny, this is Mr. Slater."

"Hi," the little boy said shyly.

"Hello, yourself. You look like youíve had a big day," Zach said taking in the baseball uniform.

"He just finished baseball practice," Evangeline said in response to Zachís question. She turned to Johnny and asked, "Whereís your dad?"

"Right here," John said from behind her. He had seen Evangeline lay her hand on Zachís arm and he hadnít liked it. They were sitting entirely too close to each other and it looked extremely intimate.

"Hey, John. John, meet Zach Slater. Zach, this is John McBain."

The two men shook hands, while Evangeline asked Johnny how practice went. While she was preoccupied by her little boy, John and Zach assessed each other. John stepped closer to Evangeline and placed his hand on her chair near her shoulder. Zach smiled when he realized that John was attempting to mark his territory. Obviously, he didnít know anything about Zach Slater.

In the few minutes that Zach had been in Evangelineís presence, he knew that she was a special woman. One who was willing to walk away from a potentially high paying client, because she believed in family, first. She would be good to have on his side and he intended to keep her there.

---------------

John and Johnny had met Michael and left Evangeline and Zach to finish their meeting, but John watched them the whole time they were together. Michael was entertaining Johnny and glanced up ever so often to check on his brother.

"Youíre really quiet John," Michael asked when Johnny went to the restroom. Johnny considered himself a big boy and didnít want anyone taking him to the restroom, so Michael watched the restroom door from where he sat.

"Iím thinking about something." He unconsciously turned his beer bottle around on the table. He glanced at the platinum Celtic wedding band that Evangeline had placed on his finger years ago before looking back to the table where she sat.

"Yeah, I can see that."

"What are you getting at Michael?" John asked when he heard the sarcasm in his brotherís voice.

"Youíre jealous."

"Heís her client. Thatís all."

"Then why are you looking at them hard enough to bore a hole in the back of Evangelineís head."

"Michael, mind you own business."

"You still love Evangeline, donít you?"

"Yes, sir," Johnny said from his place beside his uncle. "Dad told me that in the car."

"Really?" Michael said turning to Johnny.

Before Johnny could respond, John was moving toward Evangelineís table, where Zach had just left. As Zach was leaving, he had held Evangelineís hand briefly; and for a moment John had the impression that he was going to kiss it.

"What was that about?" John asked when he arrived at the table.

"Excuse me?" she responded, putting the file that Zach brought into her briefcase.

"What were you doing with him?"

"John, what are you talking about? Zach is a client and I donít really think thatís any of your business."

"Youíre my wife. You are my business."

"My work is not your business. Whereís Johnny? Iíll take him home with me, that way you donít have to come back by the house."

"I donít mind."

"Right now, I do," she said with a frown and walked to the table where Johnny sat with Michael. She kissed Michael on the cheek and stood talking to him, while she sent Johnny to say goodbye to his dad.

"Bye, dad. Iíll see you tomorrow, right?" he said, giving his dad a hug.

"Absolutely, champ. Take care of your mom, okay?"

"Always," Johnny said and ran back to his mom, before the two of them walked out of the restaurant.

Maybe I didnít work hard enough, he thought watching them leave.

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