CHAPTER 5

Todd kept the first vigil by Evangeline's bedside while the other
three men were treated for their injuries: Killian, overexposure;
McBain, overexposure and exhaustion; and Antonio, overexposure and
what turned out to be a broken ankle.

Taking Evangeline's hand into his own, Todd was pleased to find her
temperature much cooler. Before Killian had allowed himself to be
tended to by the nurses, he had briefed everyone on her condition and
the antibiotics she needed. Todd had been listening with hawk ears,
ready to blast anyone who did not follow through on Killian's
instructions.

"Alright, Evangeline, what's going to be my headline? Llanview Legal
Genius Opens Eyes to Publisher Friend or "

Todd stopped talking when he thought he heard Evangeline say his name.
She was asking for McBain.

"I'm right here, baby. Sweetheart?" Todd said, trying to put on
McBain's raspy baritone.

Evangeline became discomfited by the impersonation of her lover's
voice, furrowing her brow, still lost in her fever.

"Hey, settle down, settle down, it's just me. It's Todd," he said,
halfway standing and then sitting down again, unsure if he should
retrieve the doctor on duty.

Her body released its tension, and Todd allowed the breath he had been
holding to escape his lungs. His friend was safe, and he felt out of
place. He missed his family. Blair and Starr had supported his
rescue mission completely, though they were secretly afraid of the
danger he was chasing.

He had heard them whispering to each other in the bathroom at home.
Blair was brushing Starr's hair, and they were debating whether they
should join in the search themselves or convince Todd to stay at home
and hire a team to scour the mountain. In the end, the two had
decided that Todd would hear none of it and that it was best to let
him do what he wanted to do. He had surprised them both, making a
seemingly spontaneous offer to contact them with updates every six
hours.

Todd looked at his watch. He was late calling home. He slouched in
his chair and ran a hand through his hair and decided to wait five
more minutes. Todd wanted to see Evangeline open her big brown eyes
and smile at him. He wanted that reunion moment, though he knew it
didn't really belong to him. It belonged to her and McBain.

Standing and stretching, Todd took a deep breath and leaned over,
kissing Evangeline on her forehead. He looked at her, stuffed his
hands in his pockets and smiled wistfully. God, he wanted that
reunion.

"I'll see you when you get back home, counselor. I plan to get in a
lot of trouble, and I'm going to need your help to get out of it,"
Todd said, turning on his heels and walking out.
______________________________________________________________________________________

John stumbled out of his hospital bed, disoriented. His eyes were
still closed, as he felt his way across the darkened room. All he
could think was he had held his love in his arms, had felt her chest
rise and fall with breathing, had worn her heat on his cold skin. He
had to get to her again.

The brilliant lights of the hallway blinded him. So, he walked along,
slowly, trying to be inconspicuous, leading himself with his shoulder
pressed desperately against the wall. He acclimated his eyes to the
antiseptic brightness by opening his eyes slowly. He looked in the
different rooms as he passed by each of them. Part of him wanted to
be impulsive and just scream for her. But he didn't want the
interference of the nurses and doctors, of Antonio or Manning. He
didn't want anyone to come between him and his love.

When they had first brought Evangeline and the man who had helped her
into the hospital, the doctors and nurses had rightfully focused on
treating them. Then, came Antonio. By the time they called McBain
into the examining room, his body had failed him. He had collapsed,
after weeks of barely sleeping, after months of sleeping poorly.
Without her, he had been restless concert of despondency.

She was sitting with her legs over the side of the bed by the time he
found her room. When she felt his presence, she turned toward the
door, and her eyes wet with tears.

"You found me," she said, putting her face in her hands, overwhelmed.

John leaned against the wall to fight the weakness in his knees. Old
habits would have had him put his head down in the past, but now, he
didn't want to look away from her for a minute, lest she be a mirage.

"I didn't know I had a choice," he said.

Evangeline stretched her arm out to him, and he pushed himself away
from the pale green support of the wall. Tears boiled down his cheeks
old tears he had been storing since they had first separated, since
he had let her go, since he her plane had first gone missing. When he
got to her, he took her reaching hand, put it to his mouth and kissed
it. She pulled him to her.

He kneeled in front of her and put his head in her lap, wrapping his
arms around her hips. She put her hands in his hair and leaned over,
laying her head on his back. They stayed like that, crying and
breaking their separate selves down to be one again.

Evangeline sat up straight, and John lifted his head at the change.
Steadying himself with his hands pressed against the bed, John
partially stood, knees still bent, and met Evangeline's gaze with his
own. Their lips met sweetly, with soft pushes of flesh and a desire
to mingle souls.

John was the first to break, sitting on the bed, holding her near to
him, in the dizzying spell of their love for each other. He touched
her face, pushing back the netting of her hair, locking her eyes in
his.

"I love you, and if you're not sure of anything else in this world, be
sure of that," he said, prompting her tears to begin again. "I'll
never let you go away from me again."

"John " Evangeline began.

"Don't tell me that love is not enough," he said.

Evangeline shook her head. "I was going to say I love you, too."

They kissed each other again, until Evangeline felt weak in her body.
John put her back into the bed, taking the seat beside her. She
reached up and grabbed his shirt.

"Don't leave me. O.K.? Not even when I go to sleep," she said, her
eyes almost closed.

"I won't ever leave you or let you go again," John assured her, taking
her hand and putting it over his heart.

Evangeline sat up like a bolt and set John's heart racing.

"What? What's wrong?" he asked, breathless.

"Where's Killian? Is he alright?"

John closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. "He's fine. The doctors
treated him for overexposure. He's fine," he said, making her lean
back again.

Evangeline accepted his word, and before sleep claimed her, she said,
"We've got to help him, John. He's not a killer."

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