Chapter 4

"Evangeline, itís great to see you," Olivia Frye said as Evangeline walked into her office two days later.

"Same here," she replied, giving Olivia a hug in greeting. "Howís it going? How are Tom, Terence and Jamal?"

"Tom is great. Terence and Jamal are fine. How are John, Johnny and your mom?"

"Theyíre good. John is working and Johnny is playing baseball like a champ and loving elementary school. Mom is great. Sheís working with some teenagers and she loves it."

She twisted the platinum Claddaugh ring, with embedded diamonds, that she wore as she answered Oliviaís question.

She remembered when John had slipped it on her finger during their wedding. Later that night, sheíd traced his tattoo with the hand that carried his ring. It had been one of the most passionate nights sheíd spent with her husband. She sobered when she thought about the fact that they were separated. Evangeline hadnít told Olivia about the separation and since she still wore her wedding ring, she decided just to let it ride.

"Well, letís get down to business. What does Zach want out of all of this?"

"He wants to protect his son. We know someone made an attempt on Ryan Laveryís life. He believes that same someone will come after his son and his niece. He wants to protect them from harm. He believes he can only do that by taking control of the company."

"Thatís ridiculous. He avoided telling Ethan that he was his father. That man doesnít know what love is."

"I believe he may know more than you think. He does love Ethan and I think he wants to make peace with him. I suggested that we all meet here so that they could have the opportunity to talk with the illusion of legal counsel present."

"I see youíre still trying to heal families. Youíve been on that kick since you and John got married and you got over your fear of the institution."

Evangeline and Olivia had become friends when Evangeline was in undergrad and Olivia had taken her under her wing in a mentoring program the law school started. It was during that time that Evangeline told her how her parents divorce had impacted the way she felt about marriage and divorce. They had talked years later after Evangeline had begun practicing and that fear had been amplified with the divorce rate and the couples sheíd represented in court. John had made her believe that they could make a marriage work. She prayed that was still a possibility.

"Well, family is the most important thing in the world and people should do everything they can to make them work." Did I do everything I could to keep my family together?

"Get off your soapbox. Youíre preaching to the choir. I agree that they need to talk out whatever is going on between them. Deep down, Ethan wants to be accepted by his father. He doesnít trust him, but he wants to know him."

"What son wouldnít want to know their father and know that their father loves them? If Zach can explain his reasons, maybe we all win in this mess."

"I agree. They are scheduled to arrive within the next few minutes. You want a cup of coffee?"

"Sure, do you still drink that French Vanilla blend that we found in D.C.?"

"Yep. I keep some here in the office for days I just need a pick me up. Because itís you, Iíll share."

They reminisced for the following minutes about the time theyíd spent in D. C. Just as they were finishing their coffee, Oliviaís assistant buzzed her that Zach and Ethan were waiting.

When they entered the room, Evangeline could see the resemblance right away. As they went through the preliminaries of the meeting, she saw that they shared some other traits, stubbornness being number one. Neither of them was willing to give an inch.

"Okay, enough," Evangeline said as the two men continued to go back and forth at each other. "The two of you are going to talk and neither of you is going to interrupt the other while speaking. You are going to listen and then weíre going to end this meeting. Hopefully, some sort of compromise can be reached." She looked both of them in the eye and once she had their concurrence, she and Olivia moved to the sofa sitting against one wall of her office. They monitored the men, but it appeared that she had gotten through to them. They were actually talking.

By the time the meeting ended, Zach and Ethan agreed to meet each other for lunch the next day. It appeared that while it would take Ethan a long time to forgive his father for what he considered a betrayal, he was willing to make an attempt at some sort of relationship. The men had decided that Ethan should take control of the company, but that Zach would act as an advisor since he had so much experience in business. This would provide Zach with a means to monitor any threats to his son and niece, while Ethan would have the right to fulfill his grandfatherís wishes. Ethan was an impressive young man and Evangeline could see him going far.

Olivia provided Evangeline and Zach a place to talk privately after the meeting ended. Evangeline wanted to finish all her business that evening, since she was planning on going home early the next morning.

"That went rather well," she said. "You and your son have come to an agreement that is beneficial to everyone involved. Iím proud of both of you."

"Thanks. I normally walk my own path, but I thank you for encouraging me to try to work things out with Ethan. I love him."

"I know that. I think heíll know that too in time."

"I hope that heíll forgive me."

"He will. He doesnít want to hate you. He wants his fatherís love just like every other child." She thought of Johnny. He knew without a shadow of doubt that his father loved him and he was a happy, well-balanced child. John was so good with him. She wondered what they were doing. She stood looking out the window with a pensive look on her face.

"Penny for your thoughts," Zach said from behind her.

"Theyíre not worth that much. I was just thinking of John and Johnny. By the way, thank you again for the flowers and the ball for Johnny. He really loved it.

"Iím glad. I wanted to impress you.

Instead of responding to his comment, she turned to the file that lay on the table. "I can finish up the paperwork and have it fed exedÖ."

She broke off when Zach wrapped his arm around her and pulled her to him. Before he could kiss her, she placed her fingers over his lips.

"Zach, what are you doing?"

"Iím about to kiss you."

"Why would you do that?"

"I find you extremely attractive and I donít allow myself to have regrets."

"Zach, I love my husband." She pushed herself out of Zachís arms and moved away from him.

"You and your husband are separated. I know how important family is to you, so it had to be him."

"Zach you donít know anything about my life, but let me make something crystal clear. If you ever attempt to do this again, you will wish that you never laid eyes on me."

"I didnít mean to offend you, but youíre a beautiful woman. Your husband obviously didnít appreciate that. No man in his right mind would let you go."

"I wonít talk to you about John. Just know this. I love him and nothing is going to change that. Iíll complete the paperwork and have it couriered to you. I can recommend another attorney when thatís done," she said as she put the file into her briefcase and moved to the door.

"I want you."

"You canít have me. Iím taken. Goodbye Zach."

He sighed as the door closed behind her. Heíd once said that he didnít have regrets. He did whatever had to be done to get what he wanted. Well, heíd just been proven wrong.

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

Evangeline was furious as she went to her hotel. Thankfully, sheíd checked into her room before going to her meeting. She couldnít believe that Zach had tried to kiss her. She was a married woman who loved her husband. Granted they were separated, but that wasnít what she wanted. She wanted her husband back. She wanted a life with him and their son.

Had she done something to make Zach think his advances would be welcomed? She knew that she hadnít. She should have listened to John. She hated when he was right. Or rather she hated when she was wrong.

She closed the door to her hotel room and walked into the bathroom. She set her purse on the counter and then went further into the room and stopped. She should have turned on the light at the door. Something wasnít right. The light was on in the bathroom, but she couldnít see all the areas of the hotel room.

"Itís just me," a familiar voice said from the darkest corner.

"John, what are you doing here? You scared me. Howíd you get in here? Whereís Johnny for that matter?"

He walked across the room to sit on the corner of the bed directly in front of her. He looked up at her before answering. "Johnny is with my mother. Iím here because I wanted to talk to you in private and I figured that coming here would provide us with some neutral ground. Iím sorry that I scared you. Iím youíre husband and a cop. It wasnít hard to get in."

"You used your badge to get into my hotel room. What gives you the right to do that?"

"Weíre married. I still have all sorts of rights."

"Weíre separated. Your rights have been forfeited. Why didnít you call me? My cell phone is on."

"Evangeline, I wanted us to talk and not over the phone. I made a decision and Iím not going to apologize for it. Do you want me to leave?"

"No," she said after taking a deep breath. "Other than the fact that you got into my room without my permission, Iím actually glad that youíre here."

"You are? What happened with Slater? I knew I should have taken care of him," he said with a frown.

"Yes, Iím glad youíre here and nothing happened that you should worry about. I was just thinking that I want our marriage to work more than anything. I realize that Iíve been blaming you for the problems and I know that Iím to blame too."

"Angie, I want our marriage to work, too. Iím willing to work at giving you what you need, but you have to tell me what that is."

"Youíve actually been doing it lately. Youíve been with us more. Thatís really all Iíve wanted, for you to be there."

"I havenít been there, because I didnít think you needed me there. You changed your schedule and rearranged your life for Johnny and I felt like there was no place for me there, that you and Johnny didnít need me."

"John, I never meant to make you feel that way. Johnny and I have always needed you. I only made those changes because it was easier for me to do than for you. Why didnít you ever tell me that you felt that way?" She moved to stand closer to him.

"What would it sound like for me to admit to my wife that Iím jealous of my son? I mean, I love Johnny. He is second in my life only to you. But itís hard to admit that I need you, too."

"Oh, John. Weíve been going around in circles. I thought we were talking and we really werenít." As she spoke, she ran her fingers through his hair. He closed his eyes and relished the touch. Evangeline hadnít initiated any physical contact with him since heíd moved out.

"When you asked for the separation, I was hurt, but I wasnít going to tell you that. I thought it was what you really wanted and I promised myself a long time ago that I would always work to give you what you need." He kept his eyes closed and pulled her to him, resting his head against her chest with his hands on her hips, while he shared the pain that he attempted to bury. He wrapped his arms around her waist and held her to him.

"It was a test," she whispered.

"It was a test?" His head popped up, his eyes snapped open and his eye brows shot up.

"Yes. I wanted you to fight me on it. I know it was manipulative. I know that, but I wanted to know that you loved us more than your work. My daddy always taught me to never be second, I guess it carries over to all the aspects of my life." As she explained her reasons, she smiled at him apologetically continuing to run her fingers through his hair. The thick locks caressed her fingers like silk. It was a pastime that sheíd missed.

"I do love you guys more than my work. I always have. I canít compromise how I do my job, but you guys have always come first. Iím just sorry that I didnít make that clear."

"Iím sorry I didnít explain what it was I really wanted."

"It appears that we were both wrong, but we can fix it." He pulled her onto his lap.

"We absolutely can. You know I love you, right?" she asked as she wrapped her arm around his shoulders.

"Yeah, I know that. Just like you know that I love you." He kissed her to reiterate his statement. "Promise me that from now on weíll talk. Really talk and share what weíre going through no matter what."

"I promise. Actually, I would like to renegotiate the terms of this marriage."

"Iím afraid to ask what these terms might be."

"Youíll like this one. From now on, one night a week weíll send Johnny to stay with one of our mothers so that we can spend some quality time together. How does that sound?"

"That sounds great. The mothers will love that. We also have access to Shannon and Michael for babysitting duties."

"I know it. I canít wait to call them on all those offers theyíve made for their babysitting services," she said with a devious grin. John grinned back and then his expression turned serious.

"Iím moving home tomorrow and youíre not getting rid of me again."

"I was hoping youíd say that. Johnny will be so happy."

"What about you?"

"Words can not describe how ecstatic I am about you being back in our house and in our bed."

"In this case, we donít need any words."

He laid her on the bed. He ran his hand down the side of her face and smiled at her. It was a joy to see her smile back at him. It had been a long time since they had just enjoyed each other. They caressed each other as they removed their clothes and re-familiarized themselves with each otherís bodies. It had been much too long. Each touch was more passionate than the one before. It had always been this way with them. The love that they had for each other led to a passion that couldnít be contained.

When John finally entered Evangeline, they were both aching for release. They both sighed, Evangeline closing her eyes, when he was embedded in her so deeply that they couldnít tell where one ended and the other began. John stilled, resting in the warmth that heíd missed so much. He stared down into Evangelineís face as he traced her features until her eyes opened.

"Iím finally home," he said with a smile as he began to move. She trembled in his arms and wrapped her legs tighter around him as he moved sensually into her. When they both found release in a shuddering embrace, she whispered his name and tears filled her eyes. John took her face in his hands and kissed the tears away.

"God, but youíre beautiful," he whispered between kisses. "I love you."

"I love you, more," she responded quietly.

"Not possible Angie." The look on his face clearly backed up his statement. She was shaken by the intensity of emotion expressed in his eyes.

"How about we just call it a tie?"

"How about we just make sure we donít lose each other again?"

"Deal."

They relaxed into each other and rested in the knowledge that they were stronger for the time theyíd been apart, but they would never let it happen again.

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