No commitment.

Day by day.

When the outside became too much, they could find solace within each other's arms. No questions asked. No excuses and no regrets.

The tapping of her sandals on the sidewalk coincided with Evangeline's thoughts as she made the short journey home. The rhythmic cadence reminded her of the pulsating tempo of her soul every time she and John met. Making love with him took her completely by the surprise. Their union was unlike anything she'd ever experienced before. Her body exploded and her spirit soared. The quiet man with the soulful blue eyes touched her to the depths of her soul.

Screeching tires halted her contemplation of the night's events. Her heart pounded in response to the sudden noise. She turned and watched as a car roared down the street.

"What an idiot."

At this late hour, traffic had died down. The NASCAR wannabe could have seriously injured someone otherwise.

Then, just as suddenly, a familiar buzz sounded from her purse. Evangeline had half a mind not to answer her phone. RJ had her number on speed dial, calling incessantly. After experiencing magic in John's arms, she was in no mood to deal with her ex's nonsense.

Buzz. Buzz.

"Geez!" She scooped the phone from the bottom of her bag and without pausing to check the caller ID, answered through gritted teeth. "What?"

"Evangeline?" That soft, husky voice belonged to only one man.

Her body became on instant alert. "John. Hi."

"Ow." A low groan followed. "Where are you? Are you okay?"

This hoarse tone of his voice wasn't normal. Her sixth sense kicked in. Apprehension rippled through her. "I'm fine. How are you? What's wrong?"

"I…um…I encountered a problem in the hallway. I wanted to make sure you were fine. Are you home?"

"I'm not home." She spun on her heels and headed back to his hotel. Her instincts flew into overdrive. "What kind of problem? Was it RJ?"

"No." He grunted and inhaled a ragged breath. "Why aren't you home, yet? Go and stay there."

"No, I'm coming to you. In fact, I'm half a block away--"

"Evangeline, no! Go home. I'm fine."

"You don't sound it." In fact, he sounded like shit. What the hell happened to him? She almost dreaded the thought of finding out. Knowing him, whatever it was must have been pretty bad if his first thought was to check on her.

Oh God. RJ, what have you done?



John listened to the hum of the dial tone and cursed his cell phone. A million curses went through his mind. He had no choice but to call her. Confirming her safety far outweighed his injuries and the humiliation of being jumped.

Hardheaded, stubborn woman.

Perceptive and intuitive, she heard his pain. His fearless wonder woman was now on her way to save the injured lawman. Against his wishes, a faint smile crossed his lips. How could he not admire her? She really was unlike any other woman he'd ever known.

"John!" Evangeline appeared at the end of the hallway.

The alarm in her voice shook him to the core. He struggled to sit up. A sharp pain ripped through his side. He leaned against the wall for support, biting his lip to keep from crying out.

In the next moment, she knelt at his side. He watched in awe as countless emotions crossed her beautiful face. Sympathy. Anguish. Finally, vengeance.

"What did he do to you?" She gently cupped his face, tilting his head toward the light. A frown darkened her brow. "Have you called 9-1-1?"

"I don't need the paramedics," he scoffed. "What do you mean 'he'? Two guys did this to me."

"Excuse me." She released a humorless chuckle. "Of course, I stand corrected. Can you stand?"

He looked away from her searching, concerned gaze. "I don't know. I haven't tried, yet."

"Well, let's see."

Before he could protest, she wrapped one arm around his waist and slowly stood. He tried not to weigh her down, but the pain in his side was overwhelming. He glanced at her face. She gave him a faint smile.

"What? Are you gonna stand there gawking all night or are you gonna help me out here?"

He laughed outright. The effort cost him a searing flash of pain. He ignored it. "You're the wonder woman. Can't you carry me on your back or something?"

"I would, but a handsome sheriff depleted my stores of energy." She smiled. "I'm doing the best I can."

When they reached his room, he waited as she unlocked and opened the door. "Your best is pretty damn good."


For the second time that night, Evangeline pushed John onto the bed. He tried to smile, but it looked more like a grimace. Her heart ached. Seeing him in pain damaged her soul. This was her fault. Somehow, RJ knew what happened with John and instead of facing her like a man, he sent two thugs after John.

What in the hell did I ever see in that man?

"Don't." John caught her wrist as she brushed the hair from his eyes.

"I need to clean your cuts. Do you have a first aid kit?" She tried to twist free, but he held fast.

"Evangeline, wait."

"John…" Dismay filled her. How could he look at her with such understanding? They didn't have time for that.

"Listen to me." He patted the space beside his thigh. "Sit down." After she obeyed him, he added, "No matter who did this to me, it's not your fault. Understand that."

"If RJ did this--"

"He's responsible for his own actions. We're all adults here, right. And if he did this, I will take care of it."

"I don't understand how or why he'd come after you like this. I thought I knew him. I've never been such a bad judge of character. I am so sorry."

John squeezed her hand. "Stop it. You don't owe me an apology. Believe me, I've suffered worse. It's just a few scratches and bruises."

"You're favoring your side." She glanced at the rip in his tank top. Her fingers caught the hem of the shirt and pulled. An angry bruise marred the perfection of his muscled torso. Her breath caught. Unshed tears blurred her vision. "Your ribs could be broken. Please, let me call for help."

He brushed his knuckles along the swell of her cheek. "Okay. I'll call my brother."

"Will it be okay if I wait?"

His mouth slowly curved into a beautiful smile. "I'd like that."


John sucked in air as his brother taped his side. Dammit! Did Michael get some kind of perverse pleasure from this? One glance at Evangeline's worried frown, John bit back his list of accusations and swallowed the groan that demanded to be released. Finally, Michael finished and slammed down a bottle of pills on the nightstand.

"That's for the pain," his brother said. "Nothing is broken, but a few of the ribs are bruised."

"What about his head?" Evangeline moved to stand behind John. Her fingers brushed his scalp. "He was hit pretty hard. Does he have a concussion?"

Michael's eyebrows rose as he looked from her to John. John's eyes narrowed in return and his brother smiled.

"He'll need to be watched tonight," Michael said. "I can stay over or…"

"That won't be necessary," John said. "I'm fine."

"I know about concussions," she said. She placed a soft hand on his shoulder and squeezed. "You shouldn't be alone tonight. I can…um…I can stay and make sure you're okay."

Sensing a smidgen of discomfort, he said, "You don't have to do that."

"I know." Her chin lifted in determination. "But I will. Just tell me what I need to watch for, Michael. I'll make sure he's okay."

John opened and closed his mouth several times as his brother and Evangeline ignored him. They discussed his medical care as if he didn't have the ability to care for himself. And when they were finished, she walked Michael to the door and closed it upon his exit.

"I'm fine, Evangeline. I've been knocked around before. I don't need a babysitter."

"These are exceptional circumstances and your denial is falling on deaf ears."

"Don't do this out of some misguided sense of guilt. I'm not a charity case."

"Ha!" She covered her mouth as she laughed. "You are quite a man, John McBain, and you're the last person whom I'd consider a charity case. You've been there for me when I needed you. Let me do the same for you. No strings attached."

He threw up his hands and instantly regretted that move. Pain rippled through his body. He eased onto the pillows and stared into her dazzling brown eyes. "Fine. Stay. But I have to say, you need to practice your bedside manner." He beckoned with his forefinger. His voice dropped to a husky growl. "Let me help you with that."

Heat flared in her gaze. Awareness charged the air. "Are you sure? I mean…John? You're hurt. You should rest. I'll sit in this chair over here."

He cocked an eyebrow. "All the way over there? Come closer."

She pointed a finger at him. "I know what you have in mind."

"But I'm hurting, Angel. I have an ache," he murmured as his hand cupped his crotch, "right here. I bet you have an ache, too. Come here."

Shaking her head, she kicked off her sandals and tossed her blouse over her head. The skirt slid down her hips onto the floor. Wearing an amazing uniform of a black lacy bra and panties, she marched to him. "You are insane. I'm insane. This," she said, straddling him, "is insane."

He cupped the back of her head and pulled her mouth into kissing range. Her breath fanned his lips and need for her blazed out of control. "There's nothing wrong with a little insanity."

Then, mutual urgency overpowered the need for conversation and the wounded Sheriff thoroughly enjoyed Wonder Woman's passionate care of him for the rest of the night.

The End

One Life to Live©ABC
Exceptional Circumstances by niklovr©2004
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