Part 9

True to his word, John didn't spend the night. Instead, he ordered the night patrol to double their efforts in her neighborhood. If anything suspicious happened, they were to call him immediately.

He sat up half the night waiting for that call. Finally as dawn threatened to catch him waiting for its arrival, he drifted into a fitful slumber.

His ringing cell awakened him the next morning. He glanced at the clock. A little after seven. Which wasn't a late morning for most, but it was for him. He rubbed his eyes as he answered the call.

"McBain," he said in a voice hoarse from sleep.

"John?"

He jumped from the bed in one fluid movement. His nerves rattled with unease. "Evangeline? What's wrong? Are you okay?"

"Yeah, I'm fine." She paused. Concern echoed in her voice. "Are you okay? You don't sound good."

Her ability to read him amazed him. He smiled despite his personal demons. "I didn't get much sleep last night."

"Wow, two nights in a row," she said. "I'm sorry."

"No, I slept great with you--" He squeezed his eyes tightly shut. Shit. That came out horribly wrong. Using humor to mask his emotions was one thing, but blurting out his soul went against his deepest instincts. Yet, words spoken could never be returned. He swallowed his pride and said, "Um, Evangeline… The truth is… Well, that was the truth. So don't apologize. How are you? Did you sleep well?"

"Not really."

"Why?"

"Thinking too much I guess and wondering who followed me yesterday. Since it wasn't RJ, I'm lost as to suspects. Maybe I imagined it and if so, I do apologize for worrying you."

Was she nuts? Of course, her safety mattered to him!

"I don't understand how such a smart woman has a head loaded with bricks."

She gasped. "Are you saying I'm hardheaded?"

"You hit it with one shot." He moved to the closet and pulled out a pair of black jeans and a blue shirt and tossed them onto his unmade bed. "I didn't imagine someone in your yard or the coward racing off when I got too close. You didn't imagine anything. Look, don't leave your house. I'm picking you up. No arguments."

He hung up without giving her a chance to protest. Then, he showered, dressed and rushed across town to her place.

Evangeline greeted him with a blank expression. Without too many words passing between them, she joined him inside the Mustang. Her silence unnerved him, and her proximity set his soul on fire. What was he getting into and why was he in such a rush?

Slow it down, McBain. Relax. Take a deep breath.

He braked at a stoplight. Her body shifted and he turned his head. Their gazes locked. She gave him a faint, embarrassed smile.

"Thank you, John."

What? He certainly hadn't expected gratitude for his heavy-handed behavior. Was there a catch? She had throwing him off guard down to a science.

"For what?" he asked.

"For caring." She reached out and caressed his hand that gripped the steering wheel. "I was all set to lose it as soon as you walked through that door."

"What changed your mind?" The light changed to green. The Mustang coasted into the flow of traffic.

"A return of common sense."

"That's always a good thing," he said. Movement in the rearview mirror caught his eye. He turned onto a side street. Sure enough, the silver gray Lincoln Continental followed. This vehicle looked nothing like the black sedan parked on her street that night, but John wouldn't take anything for granted.

"Don't make it obvious, but could you check out that gray car behind us," he said. "Do you recognize it?"

She scooted low into the seat and looked through the sideview mirror. "It doesn't look familiar. How long has it been back there?"

"Since we turned onto Lord Lane." He grabbed the handset to the police radio. "This is McBain. I need info on a Lincoln, late seventies model. Here are the license plates."

Dispatch quickly responded with info. John glanced at Evangeline. She looked frightened and confused.

"I don't recognize that name." She tilted her head, looking through the mirror again. "And the car's still back there. I want to believe it's a coincidence. What will we do?"

"I'm taking you to PD," he said. "It's time to get serious about this."

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