Part 13

Evangeline's adorable chuckle… The twinkle in her eyes when she smiled… The sexy way she flipped her hair… John released a low groan. Getting the woman out of his mind proved impossible. He glanced at his watch, anticipating the five o'clock hour when he'd pick her up and take her home.

Home.

His mouth became dry. His throat constricted. He hadn't thought of anyplace being home in years. Almost six years to be exact. Not since Caitlin died.

He rubbed his hand over his face. Cobwebs covered his brain, muddled his thinking. Evangeline's house was her home. Not his. Staying there was a part of the job. He hired on to protect and to serve. That's what he did every night. Feeding his growing need to bask in her presence was an unintentional benefit.

He laughed out loud. Bask in her presence? God, how corny was that?

Of course, he couldn't deny it. She broke through the glacier surrounding his heart. He fought hard not to turn into a messy puddle at her feet. He groaned. Was he a poet now? Shit.

He shook his head. Enough with the rationalizations. He liked Evangeline. He enjoyed her company. And protecting her off the clock wasn't a hardship. There! He admitted the hard truths. Now, he could focus on the Santi investigation and finding a way to get Carlos Rosa to talk.

*/*

"Antonio hasn't checked in. There's no clear link that the man in custody for following Evangeline is on the Santi payroll." He swatted hair from his eyes as he voiced his concerns to his Commander. "But I can't rule it out. He won't break, Bo, and I've tried everything."

Bo's frustration with the case came through loud and clear. "I want you to book the next flight to San Juan."

"I was thinking the same thing."

"Assign Hall to guard Evangeline. He's a good cop."

But not good as I am.

"John?" Bo prompted as dead silence hung in the air.

"I'm listening."

"Look, I'd go if I could, but this damn quarantine doesn't have an end in sight."

"I understand, Bo. It's no problem. I'll talk to Hall and book my flight."

Dread hit John full in the gut as he hung up the phone. Edwin Hall was one of LPD's best, but leaving him to guard Evangeline? That idea didn't take inside John's head. Yet, he couldn't renege on his duty as an officer of the law. There was really only one thing he could do.

*/*

"Hi, there." Evangeline's face lit up with delight as he walked into her office. She glanced at her watch and laughed. "You're early."

"I know." He closed the door after him before moving to her desk. "Do you have any big plans for the next few hours…or days?"

"What?" She looked perplexed. "What are you talking about?"

"I…um…" Man, how did he say this? "I have to go to Puerto Rico. I don't know how long I'll be gone. Not more than a couple of days."

Her eyes widened. "Are you asking me to go with you?"

"Well, I am protecting you. I can't do that while I'm in PR and you're in PA," he said.

She opened and closed her mouth several times. Then, she said, "Nothing weird has happened over the last few days. I'm sure I'll be okay."

"We can't be sure of anything until the perp talks. I don't want you in danger." He moved to the window, unable to stand the uncertainty in her eyes. "Look, I can assign Officer Hall to you. He'll pick you up and guard you all night."

"That sounds like a lot of trouble."

"It's not." He shrugged and slowly turned around. "Arrangements can be made."

"What time is your flight? Do I have time to think about this?"

He nodded. "You have two hours." He headed to the door. "I'm going to my place to pick up a few things. Call me when you make up your mind."

"Will do."

John left. He leaned briefly against her office door and wondered if her hesitation was a good thing. Maybe they needed some distance between them. This constant need for her threatened to undo him. If she opted to stay in Llanview, he wouldn't argue. With that decision made, he went home and packed for his trip.

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