Part 6

"I thought you canceled and forgot to tell me."

Evangeline claimed the empty seat and gestured for a cup of coffee. The heat of embarrassment scorched her from head to toe. She was thankful for her brown complexion, which hid the blush from her friend's observant gaze. "I'm sorry. I lost track of time."

"All morning?" Nora's eyebrow arched. "I tried your office and your cell. Nothing. I came close to calling Bo and have him send a squad car to your place."

"I'm glad you didn't." The knots in her stomach loosened somewhat. "In fact, I'm in your debt forever for not making that call."

"Why?" A wicked gleam of interest lit up Nora's entire face. She leaned across the table. In a conspiratorial whisper, she asked, "What was going on at your place?"

Blood began to pound in Evangeline's temples. Carlotta appeared with the coffee. Evangeline thanked her with a smile. As she added cream and sugar, she hoped Nora didn't notice her shaking hands. This was truly ridiculous. She was a grown woman, for goodness sakes! Yet, here she sat, trembling like the class brain who made it with the school's star quarterback.

"Evangeline?" Nora reached out and took her hand. "You're making me nervous. Tell me what's going on and tell me quickly."

"I don't know," she answered with complete honesty. "One day, I'm making decisions that make sense and following the path to my goals…"

"And today?" Her dear friend and professional adversary regarded her with compassion. "I've never seen you this shaken up. I hate to resort to clichés but a man is involved, right?"

Evangeline's shoulders slumped as she leaned forward. "How did you know? Am I that obvious?"

Nora laughed. "No. I've been there and I know the signs. I won't pry, but if you want to talk…"

"Boy, do I." Her chuckle released nervous tension. "I'm in desperate need of counsel and I think you're the perfect person to advise."

"Go ahead." Nora took a sip of coffee and sat back. "I'm all ears."

For the next half hour, Evangeline recounted the most recent events of her life, making sure to gloss over the finer details. Nora mostly listened and only interrupted for clarification. As her confession reached its conclusion, Evangeline shook her head in dismay. "Well?"

"Wow."

Evangeline released a loud sigh and looked away.

"No, don't take that the wrong way," Nora said. "You're stuck between a rock and a hard place. And with RJ stalking you…"

"I don't know that's true. I haven't spoken to him. It could be just a coincidence."

Nora gave her a tight smile. "I've learned that when it comes to my former brother-in-law there's no such thing as coincidence."

"And which former brother-in-law would that be?" RJ stood behind Nora and moved to stand closer to Evangeline. "Good afternoon, ladies."

"RJ." Awkwardly, she cleared her throat. "I didn't see you enter."

"You and Nora looked thick as thieves when I came in. I decided to pick up my order before interrupting an obviously deep conversation between two distinguished attorneys."

Nora rolled her eyes. "It's too early in the day for all of that."

He laughed. "Not if it's true."

Evangeline watched the repartee between the former in-laws with a distracted mind. She needed to talk to him. Maybe this was the perfect time. Her father taught her that putting aside unpleasant things never strengthened their appeal. She might as well get it over with right now.

"Nora, would you mind?" She cut in. "RJ and I need to talk."

Nora placed several bills on the table then she stood. "Call me later."

After she left, RJ took her empty seat. "This is a first."

"What is?"

"You and Nora spending time at the Angel Square Diner. Usually, this is your hangout with John McBain. What happened? He couldn't make it and Nora played substitute?"

"He's not a part of this discussion," she said in as even a tone as she could manage. She wished he hadn't mentioned John. The discord wasn't about John, but the fact that she and RJ weren't right for each other. If they had truly been meant for the long haul, their relationship would have overpowered her attraction to the detective. Pure and simple.

"My, how defensive you are of him." A muscle quivered at his jaw. "Enough about McBain. Why are we talking? I believe you said or rather didn't say everything I needed to know the other day. What more do you want from me?"

"Just the truth." She gathered courage from the depths of her soul. "Did you follow me last night?"

"What?" Outrage vibrated from him. "Have you lost your mind? If your detective--"

"Leave him out of it," she said in a dangerously low voice. "You must admit that you have a habit of just showing up wherever I am. You did it last week and now, today, too."

"You should tighten the reins on that ego of yours," he replied. "I can order takeout wherever I want."

She refused to be sidetracked. "Last night, did you follow me? That's all I want to know."

"No, Evangeline, I did not follow you." He abruptly stood. Leaning close so that only she could hear, he added, "Sloppy seconds were never my style."

Only after he left did she allow tears of humiliation to sting her eyes.

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