Chapter 1
Why did she have to wear that dress?
Johnís eyes had zeroed in on Evangeline the instant sheíd entered the room -- on Gannonís arm. His eyes were drawn to her like a magnet. They always were whenever she was in the vicinity. The plan, it was all part of the plan he reminded himself. He didnít like it, but all he could do was go along with it for now. The pretend break-up was why she was here with Gannon.
But he hadnít known sheíd be wearing a dress like that. Midnight blue the gown seemed to flow over her figure clinging in all the right places. It was cut low in the front and dipped even lower in the back offering a tantalizing glimpse of her bare back and shoulders. Tempting the viewer to wonder if her radiantly glowing brown skin was as soft as it looked. The problem was he knew exactly how soft her skin was...everywhere Ďlike hot silkí. And she smelled...soft, sweet, hypnotic, feminine. He always found himself leaning in closer to inhale her fragrance, touching her, gorging himself on her softness. And when they were alone his hands and lips were on a constant exploration trying to unlock all the mysteries that were Evangeline and just what it was about her that made him crave her so. He was especially fond of that sensitive little spot just beneath her ear. The touch of his lips just there made her gasp, moan and press her body closer to his in response. And he would lose himself in the sensations of making love her. Sensations that were powerful, intoxicating and infinitely satisfying.
And he loved the breathy way she said "Hurry John" in that pre-orgasmic whisper of hers because she was on the edge and she wanted him there with her. Those two little words said in that pre-orgasmic whisper of hers were guaranteed to take him to the edge--and fling him over it. All he could do was hold her tighter and enjoy his downfall.
Her eyes met his across the room and he felt the familiar rush of heat along with a surprising stab of jealousy at seeing her with RJ. She gave an almost unnoticeable nod of acknowledgement in his direction. He nodded back a little stunned by what he was feeling right now. Evangeline had a way of taking his farther, faster than any other woman had. It wasnít a comfortable feeling especially now, with him watching as RJ possessively wrapped his arm around her waist pulling her closer.
Unconsciously his hand tightened around his wineglass as he fought the urge to walk over there and bury his fist in Gannonís face. The plan, it was all part of the plan he reminded himself. He never liked the plan.
"Is something wrong?" Natalie asked, sensing the change in John.
"No, everythingís fine," he answered his voice casual, his eyes never once leaving Evangeline.
Natalie looked across the room to where John was starring, then looked back at him in time to catch the look of longing in his eyes. "Hey, why donít we go and get something from the buffet? Iím starved," Natalie said feeling a bit dejected seeing where Johnís attention was focused.
"Why donít you go ahead, Iíll catch up with you later. I need to speak with Bo first. Itís about a case." His gaze flickered briefly to Natalieís before going back to Evangeline. He gently eased her arm from his and crossed the floor to Bo pulling him to the side to speak to him before she had a chance to protest.
For several moments Natalie stood alone, disappointed. Her hopes of spending an elegant evening with John were crushed. Even now, while he carried on a conversation with Bo, Johnís eyes constantly sought out Evangeline. Trying not to let her feelings show, she put on a smile and decided to try and enjoy the rest of the evening.
He decided it was senseless to stand around starring at her all evening. He had to speak with her. He made his way over to Evangeline who was talking to Nora and Daniel and for once Gannon was not around.
"Oh look hereís John," Nora exclaimed watching for Evangelineís reaction as he approached. "I thought I saw you earlier." Nora had been concerned about her friend when she saw that Evangeline was here tonight with R.J., but she hadnít had an opportunity to find out what had happened between her and John. But it was obvious to her judging by the way John was looking at Evangeline and the sly looks Evangeline had been casting Johnís way all evening when she thought no one was looking, that they wanted to be together.
"Nora, Daniel." He said in greeting. "Some party, huh?"
"Yes, well itĎs for a good cause." Nora replied.
John wasnít even playing attention to their answer; his entire focus was on one woman. Had her eyes lit up just a little as he approached? "Evangeline," he said simply, his eyes boring into hers.
"John, Hi." She sounded a little breathless and he hoped he was the cause. " I wasnít sure you would be here tonight." She looked up at him a tentative smile lighting her face.
Of course she wasnít. When she had told him that RJ had invited her and sheíd accepted as part of her brilliant plan heíd been unhappy about it and he let her know it. "It was a last minute decision," he confirmed.
They continued to look at each other ignoring everyone else around them. Nora took it all in and decided they needed a moment alone. "Iím hungry. Daniel," she said turning to her date, "arenít you hungry? We should go .. ah.. Letís go to the buffet."
Daniel looked at Nora in confusion. "But we just came back...oomph." Daniel grunted as Nora elbowed him in the gut. "Oh yeah." Daniel said finally getting a clue. "Iím starved, letís go to the buffet." Yeah great buffet we should go again and again.
"John, youíll keep Evangeline company wonít you?" Nora asked slyly.
"Sure thing."
Up close the effect of that dress was even more devastating. Her glorious mane of hair was piled artfully atop her head. He wanted to run his fingers through it freeing her hair from the pins that held it in place so that if flowed like silk through his fingers, over his face, just the way he liked it.
"Youíre here with Natalie?" It was more of a statement than a question and her voice held just a hint of uncertainty.
"As a friend, nothing more," he assured her. He moved a little closer to her. "She needed an escort and the lady I wanted to bring, well...she made other plans." He took a sip of his drink.
Evangeline took a deep breath. "John, I..."
He took a step closer. "You look amazing, by the way," he said, his voice dipping intimately.
Long lashes lowered over her beautiful midnight eyes as a slow smile curved her lips. "Thank you," she said softly glancing up at him. "Itís the dress."
Again, his eyes swept back over her in that dress. It displayed her flawless figure to perfection leaving nothing to the imagination. And there was not a line anywhere to indicate she was wearing a thing underneath. His mind immediately took him back to his earlier, more intimate thoughts of Evangeline. He swallowed, hard. Slowly his heated gazed lifted back to her face. "Yeah, thatís some dress."
Her eyes mirrored the same look of longing as his eyes. She wanted him too and there was no way she could hide it from him, no more that he could hide his desire for her. If he wasnít entirely comfortable with this intense sexual attraction, at least she was there with him feeling it too. For long moments their gazes held as if spellbound. Heat rippled between them, desire surged from within. This time she was the one to take a step closer. He ached to reach out and bring her fully to him, into his arms.
"John," she began again lowering her eyes and breaking the spell. "I know you donít agree with my continuing with my plan.."
"Thatís right, I donít agree," he interrupted. "But I did promise to have your back and I intend to," he added softly.
"Thank you," she smiled up at him. "That means a lot to me."
They were so engrossed in each other they didnít hear RJ approach.
"McBain, McBain, McBain. Is this official police business? Because I just canít fathom why you would be talking to my date." John looked over Evangelineís shoulder and met RJís glare with one of his own. RJ observing the look that passed between them stood possessively close to Evangeline.
"As a matter of fact it is business RJ," she said accepting a glass of champagne RJ held out to her. She cast a pleading look at John hoping he would go along. "John just had some questions about a case."
"Right, unfinished business," he confirmed.
"Really?" RJ said, turning to John. "Such dedication lieutenant. Perhaps instead of wasting time here you should be out chasing bad guys then you might actually solve a case. Oh, but wait a minute, surely you donít think there are any bad guys here?" RJ grinned tauntingly.
"RJ". Evangeline warned him.
JohnĎs blue eyes darkened. "Speaking of bad guys, Iím not surprised to see you here Gannon." He sneered.
RJ smiled. "Didnít you know, Iím on everyoneís A list. You, however, Lieutenant. should get out more. I mean a ball full of beautiful women and you want to talk business and bore my lovely date. Donít you have your own date to bore? "
"RJ," she said stepping between them. "This is exactly why we had problems before. You thinking you can control me, tell me who to talk to and when."
He stared down at her. "I apologize," he said tightly. "Itís just that when I saw you standing here looking so bored I thought I should come and rescue you."
"I donít need you to rescue me RJ. I can take care of myself." She turned to John. "John, if you still have questions you can contact my office on Monday morning." Her manner was cool and professional, but her eyes asked him to bare with her in this. Then she turned and took RJís arm leading him away. Again he felt that stab of jealously go through him.
"Count on it," he said tightly. She glanced back at him. "Stay out of trouble," he couldnít help adding.
"Now what fun would that be," RJ quipped as they walked away.
* * * * *
John lounged against the terrace railing drinking in the clear nighttime sky. Heíd come out here to escape the noisy buzz of the ball going on inside, to nurse his drink and lick his wounds. It was better than torturing himself by watching Evangeline with RJ.
The past week had been hell. Sheís announced that she had accepted RJís invitation to attend the gala and heíd lost it. Things had been tense and awkward between them and he couldnít stand it. When she announced that she had accepted RJís invitation to attend the Santi Gala heíd lost it. He didnít know why she had to go at all if she couldnít go with him. And if something was going to go down he certainly didnít want her in the middle of it, it was too dangerous. But for every one of his arguments sheíd had a counter argument. Now he knew how the opposing counsel felt when going up against Evangeline. Heíd left angry and frustrated. Neither one of them had been willing to back down from their position. He had retreated behind a wall of silence when all he really wanted to do was go to her, hold her make everything right between them again. It hadnít helped his ego that she had allowed him his space. But that was how she was soft and strong all at once, with a sweetness so giving he wanted more and more.
"Evangeline," he whispered. As if sheíd heard him, she stepped out onto the terrace. He grimaced as Gannon followed. Blending into the shadowy night he watched them. He decided not to make his presence known--unless he had to. He didnít like the way Gannon was looking at her and he definitely didnít like it when Gannon took her arms turning her to face him. She subtlety moved out of his grasp.
"You arenít still annoyed with me about McBain are you?" RJ asked.
"This isnít about John. You know I donít like it when you act all possessive RJ."
"Then let me make it up to you."
"Thatís not necessary RJ."
"But I want to. See I thought. . ."
"Excuse me, Mr. Gannon." One of the waiters approached them.
"I have a message for you sir. I was told it was important." He handed the folded note to RJ.
"Thanks," a confused RJ replied tipping the waiter. When the waiter left RJ moved into the light and quickly scanned the message a frown on his face.
"Trouble?" Evangeline asked moving to RJís side discreetly trying to get a look at the note.
"Ah..., no. Itís a business matter," he said quickly folding the note and placing it in his jacket pocket. "Unfortunately I do need to take care of this immediately. Iím sorry."
"Iíll come with you." she said.
"No, stay and enjoy the party. Iíll be back before you miss me, I promise."
"RJ!" Evangeline said, but he was already striding away. From the terrace she kept track of Gannonís retreating figure trying to figure out what he was up to. John moved quietly out of the shadows his eyes on Evangeline. She stilled as he approached, then released a sigh her body relaxing again. She knows Iím here he thought. Although she didnít turn around he knew she was aware that he was the one out here on the terrace with her.
"John," she breathed. "I thought you left."
He closed the distance between them until he was only a breath away and stood directly behind her.
"Well, this isnít really my thing", his voice dropping to a husky whisper, "but since youíre wearing this dress I decided to stick around." As he talked the knuckles of his hand traced the elegant curve of her bare back. She shivered at his touch, then leaned into it. His hand settled at the curve of her hip pulling her closer. He leaned over her his lips pressed close to her ear, inhaling her scent.
"Iíd really like to dance with you," he whispered, his warm breath tingling her neck.
She looked up at him over her shoulder meeting his hot blue gaze. "Iíd like that too, but. . .
ĎItís too risky. Someone could see us or RJ could come back at any moment."
"Come with me," he said in a low urgent voice taking her hand before she could deny him. He took her with him out onto the little stone part that led deep into the gardens of Lionheart where it was dark and quiet.
"Is this better," he asked.
She nodded. "This is perfect. Itís beautiful here."
"Yes, beautiful," he echoed. Her eyes dark and mysterious, stared into his. Damn, but he couldnĎt stop looking at her. She was so beautiful standing here in the moonlight and for now she was all his.
Slowly John closed the distance between them until they were standing breast to chest their bodies matched intimately from chest to thighs. He took her in his arms holding her close her perfume enveloping his senses. ĎWhy did she have to feel so good? So right.í John wondered as they swayed to music only the two of them could hear. Even from the start, that first time they made love it was as if theyíd always been lovers. His hand slide down her back resting just above the curve of her shapely backside. She closed her eyes melting against him, her arms going around his neck. He turned his head his lips brushing softly against her temple, her cheek.
"Hmmm," her hummed into her hair. "You know, Iíve been wondering all evening--just what do you have on under this dress."
She looked up at him through her lashes, her mouth curving into a smile, that same smile she gave him at the Palace Hotel right before she kissed him on a dare. "Flowers in Springtime," she whispered seductively.
A jolt of white-hot heat swept through him and he actually groaned out loud. His mind reeling as he imagined slowly peeling that dress from her until it was a dark blue pool at her feet, leaving her only in those sexy little heels she was wearing. John pulled her closer to his hard frame, his hands gently pressing her more intimately to him. Only she did this to him.
"How much longer?" He asked his voice husky with passion.
"Not much longer," she assured him. "Somethingís going on tonight. RJ got some kind of message this evening. Later, after this is over, Iím going to try to find out what. . ."
The passion clouding Johnís mind lifted momentarily as what she was saying sank in. He pulled away, his hand cupping her face lifting her gaze to his.
"I wasnít talking about your plan Evangeline. I want to know how much longer you plan on hanging out here. Because. . ." His eyes lowered to her mouth, his thumb slowing stroking over her slightly parted lips savoring their softness. "...íCause, I was hoping youíd dump Gannon and come with me."
Slowly his gaze lifted to find her smiling up at him with all the warmth and desire he could ever hope for. Tenderly sweetly she kissed his thumb, his palm. "Yes," she whispered. "Iíll come with you."
"Yeah," she echoed as she lifted her mouth to his. Petal soft lips brushed gently over his, tempting him with the promise of what was to come.
It wasnít enough.
He pulled her completely against him, his hungry mouth. Her lips parted for him instinctively. His tongue thrust bolding into her mouth needing her, claiming her as his hands caressed her.
Her fingers tangled in his long hair staking her own claim and answering his. ĎIím here, Iím right here with you, she answered with her kiss. He moaned against her lips, a deep carnal sound. One kiss turned into another, then another leaving them both breathless, needy.
Evangeline moaned in protest when he pulled his mouth away from hers, only to rain hot wet kisses across her face, down her neck, and finally to that little spot beneath her ear.
"John. . ." She trembled against him arching closer, her rounded breast pressing against his chest, her body moving seductively against his until he thought he would go out of his mind.
"Youíre coming with me," he muttered between kisses. "Then, youíre coming with me."

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