Part 16

RJ listened intently as Lopez relayed the latest. He had half a mind to end the hired hand's assignment. To hell with Evangeline and her damn cop! He didn't need her anyway. She was a fool to cheat on him with that stubble-faced, haggard looking bastard. What could John McBain and his many demons do for her that RJ couldn't? He'd bent over backwards to make their relationship work! And how did she repay him? Oh, yeah, by becoming the detective's whore.

"What's next, boss?" Lopez cut into his thoughts. "As I said, things became a little heated on the beach, but nothing happened. The cop almost made me. He didn't, though. He has his guard up. You should have seen his face when I delivered the bear. Is it doing everything you need? Do you want me to continue?"

"Yes," he said the word with such finality it sounded like a hiss. He punched in keys on his laptop. The program didn't respond fast enough. "Show me how to work this thing."

"Sure." Lopez sauntered behind RJ's desk. He lined up the cursor, double clicked and then a live feed into Evangeline's bedroom appeared on the fifteen-inch screen in vivid color. The eyes of the teddy bear caught several angles of the room. Lopez clicked a few more times, demonstrating the surveillance equipment's capabilities.

"What if I miss something?" RJ asked.

"It's recording, too." Lopez opened a folder. "Wanna see what they were up to this morning?"

RJ's chest constricted. He ground his back teeth. "Sure."

Lopez opened another window and double clicked a file marked with the day's date. "See how everything's stored in there? You can do some creative editing. If you need help with that feature just let me know. I've worked on a few…films…in my day."

RJ reached inside his wallet and pulled out several large bills. As he handed the cash to his temp employee, he said, "You're thorough if nothing else."

"I keep my eyes open, boss." He shrugged. "If I'm marketable, I get more jobs."

"Well, keep your days free," RJ said. "I'm not done with you, yet."

Hours later, he emerged from his office bleary-eyed and seeing red. The expensive stuffed animal proved its value. The tiny recording devices picked up every word and deed. Evangeline and the pig's growing affection for each other sickened RJ to the core. The easy manner they had was syrupy sweet with just enough honey to make a maggot gag.

He rubbed his eyes and wiped the sweat from his brow. So consumed by his personal torment, he didn't notice Lindsay until her arms wrapped around him.

"What are you doing?" He stood still within her surprise embrace.

"I was about to ask you the same thing," the spitfire blonde threw at him. She released her hold and folded her arms across her chest. "What's wrong with you?"

"With me?" He turned away from her unrelenting gaze and had his bartender pour him a shot of whiskey. "Nothing's wrong with me." He downed the glass, needing the burn that ripped his throat open. He pointed to the empty glass. "Another one."

"But not more than that." Lindsay positioned herself between RJ and the bar. "What is this? You look like shit. In fact, I've never seen you look so bad. Jack Daniels won't fix it."

"JD can fix a good many things and you very well know it."

"Not when you're in charge of my club--"

"It's not your club," he interjected. He flicked the drink away, untouched. "What do you want?"

"Have lunch with me."

He looked over Capricorn's lunchtime crowd. "There's not a seat in the house and my office is a mess."

"You need to get out of here," she said. She crooked her arm through his and tugged him from the bar. Over her shoulder, she told the bartender to handle things until they came back.

RJ felt the fight leave him. He glanced down at Lindsay, noted the challenge in her eyes and decided to forfeit.

"Where are you taking me?" he asked as they hit the sidewalk. The blazing sun nearly blinded him. Figures the sun would shine on a day like this.

"A new place opened a few doors from Ultra Violet. Let's check out the competition. How is that with you?" she asked, but he knew she didn't care.

"Fine," he muttered. "What's this place called?"

She smiled, squeezing his arm. "Ray of Light."

"Oh, great. Just what I need."

*/*

John laughed as he slid into the booth beside Evangeline. "How do you find these places?" He held up the menu. "Ray of Light. What kind of food will they serve here? Will I even been able to eat this stuff?"

"Cut out all the griping." Chuckling, she swatted him with her menu. "Someone ordered takeout last week. It was pretty good. So here we are."

He cocked an eyebrow. Skeptical didn't begin to describe how his stomach felt. Over the last few days, she'd taken inventory of his eating habits and found him lacking in nutrition. Coffee morning, noon, and night didn't cut it in her book. He needed vegetables, whole grains and fruit.

Yeah, right.

He'd rather have her morning, noon and night. Food was just a source of fuel.

"Read the menu and stop giving me the evil eye!" Her brown eyes danced.

Her obvious delight stopped him cold. He simply stared, drinking in the delicious curve of her smile and sparkling eyes. Her carefree demeanor mesmerized him. Wow, was this happiness? How it been that long? She was starving him but he'd gladly surrender a T-bone and potatoes for one of her smiles.

Damn, McBain, you're a goner man.

"There had better be meat on this menu," he playfully grumbled as flipped it open.

"If not, I know where I can get some."

The seductive innuendo didn't fall on deaf ears. He plucked the menu from her hands and possessed her mouth in a hard, fast kiss.

"Don't play with me, woman," he murmured as he reclaimed his menu.

"Who's playing?"

His eyebrows shot up as well as something else. His voice deepened to a husky growl. "We can leave right now if you're serious."

She grabbed her purse and stood. "What are you waiting for?"

John slammed his menu onto the table and unfolded himself from the booth. His hand latched onto hers and they practically ran from the restaurant.

Their rush came to an abrupt halt. RJ and his friend blocked the sidewalk.

"Lindsay," Gannon said, "you didn't warn me that the eatery has low standards for clientele."

"Let's just go inside." His companion seemed to have a vise grip on his arm as she tried to maneuver him around John and Evangeline.

John blocked Evangeline with his body. His eyes held RJ's as the other man went inside the restaurant. After the doors closed behind him and Lindsay, John felt Evangeline's sigh of relief pass from her body. He wrapped his arm around her waist and hugged her close.

"Thank you," she said.

"I wanted to, but I knew you didn't."

Their pace slowed from the earlier hurried rush. Instead of going to his car, they headed to the nearby park. The plans for an afternoon rendezvous no longer had top precedence.

"Are you sure he's not the one?" He brushed hair from her cheek as he searched her face for answers.

"I was, but right now…" She wore a haunted expression. "Did you see the look on his face? I thought he'd moved on. He and Lindsay would be much better than what he and I had. I don't understand why he's being so nasty."

"You're a wonderful woman, Evangeline." He sat close and hugged her to him. "Some men have a hard time letting go. We're no closer to finding out who followed you. I need to rule him out."

"Okay." She caressed his cheek. "Promise me you'll be careful."

He gave her a smile he didn't really feel. "Pinky swear."

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