Watching Evangeline recover took a lot out of John. Sleep and food didn't matter as much as making sure her needs were met. Work was always important and provided an easy way to lose himself. Yet other cases were pushed aside in his determination to prove that Augustico Santi was about her accident. After Evangeline asked him not to make this a personal vendetta and he refused to promise otherwise, underlying tension threatened to unhinge them. He fought against it and refused to give her an inch. Whether she approved of his methods or not was not an issue. He did things a certain way and caring about her only increased his diligence.
Weeks later, his tenacity paid off. He had physical evidence tying Tico to the Judge's death and proving that El Tiburon and Augustico Santi were one in the same. He gloated as the bastard was thrown into a jail cell. Tico hurled a string of obscenities at the Chief of Detectives, but John remained cool. With the SOB behind bars where he belonged, John had time to focus on more important matters, such as Evangeline Williamson.
He picked her up from work at six. She'd heard through the grapevine about Tico's arrest and Antonio's possible reinstatement to the force. Questions came from her beautiful mouth at a rapid fire pace, almost as if she was interrogating him on the witness stand.
Her cry of frustration forced him to bite back a smile. "Evangeline!"
"Don't mock me," she warned, as he pulled into his garage.
"Is that what I'm doing?"
"With him in jail, it's public knowledge. People are already talking. I have a right to know the details."
He left the car and walked around to open her door. Taking her hand, he said, "No shop talk tonight. It's just you and me."
Her luminous brown eyes rounded in surprise. "You don't want to talk about work. Is that what you're saying?"
"That's it in a nutshell."
He unlocked the door and led her inside. Their briefcases were shut inside the hall closet along with their cell phones. After they dressed into more comfortable attire of jeans and t-shirts, they cuddled together on the loveseat. Dinner was due to arrive from the Palace in less than hour. John intended to make the most of that time alone with her.
Her earlier displeasure with him seemed to evaporate as she responded to his kisses. Open-mouthed, their tongues collided. Threading his fingers through her silky dark locks, he angled her head to deepen the kiss. Low moans rippled from low in her throat. He shuddered with the pleasure, knowing that his want for her was returned.
He trailed a sea of kisses along her jawline, pausing to nibble at the spot behind her ear and to suckle the lobe.
Careful of her healing injuries, he lowered her onto the cushioned sofa. Her thighs parted and he claimed his rightful place between them. Voices inside his head warned him to slow down. He paid them no heed. He was right where he wanted to be…with his woman.
"What did you say?"
He paused in the process of unhooking her bra. His eyes locked with hers. A faint smile played at his lips to see her eyes heated with passion.
"I didn't say anything."
"Yes, you did." Her hand stroked his biceps. Her fingers traced the pattern on his tattoos.
"I know how you hate to lose an argument, counselor, but I was too busy to talk…if you recall."
"I do recall," she murmured, "and this isn't an argument. More like clarification."
He slipped his thumb under the edge of her bra. The soft underside of her breast begged to be kissed. He emitted a throaty groan. "What are you clarifying?"
"What you called me."
He frowned. "Now, you've lost me."
The teasing flirtatious light dimmed from her eyes. She became still and very serious.
"What did you hear me say?" he asked, instantly concerned.
"You called me your woman. You said, 'My woman.'" Then, just as the words passed her lips she looked away.
John straightened and gingerly pulled her up with him. "You heard me?"
"Are you admitting you said it?"
He opened and closed his mouth several times before he found the words. "I…um…I was thinking it, I guess. I think it all the time. I'm sure it's not something an independent career woman like you wants to hear. You'll label me a caveman now and never want to see me again."
She ran her hand over his chest before dropping lower to caress his abs. "You're not getting rid of me that easily."
Understanding dawned. A slow grin spread across his face. "You like that?"
"Not the possessing all-consuming aspect of it."
"But I like the you and the me part of it."
Confusion replaced understanding. He closed his hand over hers, curving around the throbbing proof of his need for her. "Explain."
She sighed. "You're determined to make me say it, aren't you?"
"That I like the idea of us belonging to each other. There I said it. You'll label me a man-grabber and never want to see me again."
"Since I'm the man you're grabbing, you're not leaving." They shared a sweet, chaste kiss, then a heated, passionate one followed. "You were scared to say that."
"Terrified out of my mind."
He cocked an eyebrow. "Of my response?"
"Yes. No." She released a self-deprecating laugh. "Of the words being said out loud. Who knew what would happen after that? God knows, I didn't."
"You should know by now, Evangeline, that I'm not going anywhere." He positioned her on his lap and hugged her close. All sorts of emotions skyrocketed through him. Some he remembered from his relationship with Caitlin. Others were brand new and solely belonged to this woman, his Evangeline. The sexy, brilliant attorney who totally blindsided him had complete claim to his heart.
His chest constricted. Oh, boy. Another admission came to the tip of his tongue. He opened his mouth to speak, but the doorbell rang simultaneously.
"Are you expecting someone?"
After paying the delivery guy, John set the heat-insulated aluminum containers on the counter. By now, Evangeline had left the sofa and was standing just behind it, waiting for him. He took her hands and kissed each knuckle, each finger. Her sighs washed over him like a warm, welcoming tidal wave.
"I love you."
Laughing, he nodded. "Yeah, a lot. More than anything. I, John McBain, am in love with you, Evangeline Williamson. Take it or leave it."
"I'll take it."
He kissed her cheek. "Good, let's eat."
"Not so fast."
"Isn't that your stomach growling? You’re always claiming that I never feed you. I'm trying to turn over a new leaf here."
"Yes, it's mine," she said, only a tiny bit flustered, "but it can wait. I have something to say."
She took his hands and kissed each knuckle and every finger. "I love you, too."
"You don't have to say it just because I did."
"It's the truth, John." She wrapped his arm around her shoulders and slipped her arm around his waist. "You have my whole heart. I just wanted you to know. Take care of it."
"I'll cherish you both until the day I die." He pressed a fast kiss to her temple. "How does that work for you?"
"It works perfectly."
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