The talk with Cristian did little to put Evangeline's mind at ease. He seemed determined to be Layla's husband and his admission of her sister's half-truths left much to be uncovered.
Several times as Evangeline became settled in her hotel room, she considered calling their mother. Lisa Williamson had a way of seeing the true motives of each of her daughters without batting an eye. Evangeline chalked that up to maternal instinct. Something Evangeline did not have and wondered if she ever would. The fast track in the life of a defense attorney left little room for much else. Once, she almost stepped onto the path to matrimony. She was lucky to jump off before making a serious mistake. Since then, she thought twice about romantic entanglements and where they might lead.
She showered and changed into rose-colored silk pajamas and matching dressing gown. The low rumble of her stomach gave a noisy reminder. She ordered a Caesar salad with grilled chicken from room service. No sooner than she hung up than the phone rang again.
"Hello?" She glanced at the digital clock on the nightstand as she spoke on the phone. Layla's shift at Capricorn wouldn't end for another two hours. She couldn't think of anyone else who'd want to call her.
"Hi, Evangeline. This is Michael...McBain."
"Oh! Michael. Hello."
"You sound surprised."
"I am," she said.
"I hope it's not too late to call. I didn't wake you."
"No, I'm wide awake. Are you at the hospital?"
"Yeah, it's a pretty slow night."
"That's a good thing, right?"
"Definitely, but it makes for a boring night," he said.
"It's not your fault. Actually, you're making things interesting. I'm looking forward to our dinner."
She smiled. Most of the people she encountered liked to play the side-step dance. Michael's "in-your-face" approach was oddly flattering. She knew exactly where she stood with him. Few men revealed their intent so quickly and without fear.
"Me, too," she said. "Where are you taking me?"
"I haven't decided, yet," he replied. "I promised a fun time. Llanview has a few options to help me live up to that. There's also the odd chance of me cooking."
"A handsome, charming doctor who can cook. It's amazing you're still single."
"There just hasn't been the right woman."
"I find that hard to believe," Evangeline said. "I thought you were dating someone. Rumor was that it was serious."
"Marcie and I broke up. She's moved on and so am I."
"I didn't mean to dredge up bad memories," she said softly. "I'm sorry."
"You didn't. We ended on semi-good terms. Actually, I'm happy for her. It's funny, but her new guy is a lawyer. He plays on the other team, though."
"Hugh, who's in the DA's office with Nora? Is that your ex's new boyfriend?"
"Yeah," he said. "Do you know him?"
"No, Nora and I keep in touch. Nora says he's pretty good."
"I doubt if he's as good as you."
Evangeline laughed. "Now, that was a subtle turn in conversation."
"Well, I'd rather talk about us than my ex and her new boyfriend."
"Us, huh?" Evangeline murmured.
He released a deep, masculine laugh. "Well, it does have a nice ring to it. Dammit, they're paging me. I have to go. Have a good night. Feel free to dream about me."
"Good night, Dr. McBain. Save lives and try not to break any hearts."
"I'll do my best. Sweet dreams, Evangeline."
She hung up the phone with a smile on her face.
* * *
Layla clocked out and trudged to her locker. Capricorn had a plentiful crowd that night. She couldn't imagine how much Antonio cleared in receipts. The bartender called him over several times to clean out the overflowing cash register. No doubt her new brother-in-law would go home a happy club-owner tonight.
"How are you getting home?"
She finished buttoning her jacket to find Antonio standing about three feet away. The expression on his face was bland, but his eyes held a dangerous glint. She couldn't read him and she hated the inability.
"The same as I always do."
"Your car isn't in the lot."
"I didn't drive it. I took the bus here. I'll take it home."
"Do you realize what time it is?"
She frowned. "Why the sudden interest in my form of transportation? You never cared before."
"You got a lot of tips tonight. I'd hate to see you mugged or worse."
"I'm a big girl, Antonio. I'll get home just fine."
"Of course, she will." Cristian brushed past his brother to take her hand. "I'm taking her home."
Heat scorched her palm from the intimate contact of his hand on hers. She drew in a deep breath and was dizzily assaulted by the warm, masculine scent of his cologne. She tried to pull away before making a fool of herself. His grip tightened, keeping them solidly united.
"Thanks for looking out," Cristian said through clenched teeth, "bro, but I have it covered. I take care of my wife's needs and that includes how she gets to and from work."
Layla looked from one brother to the other. The tension was thick enough to cut with a knife. It was almost like they were having a pissing contest and she was the grand prize. The very idea ticked her off.
"Come on," Cristian said, cutting her off, "let's go. We've been here long enough tonight."
With him half-dragging her, she didn't have a choice. When they reached the car and he tried to shove her inside, she stood her ground. "Enough!"
"Layla, I'm sorry."
She was prepared for an argument. His apology threw her. "You're what?"
"I'm sorry for what happened in there," Cristian said.
The low rumble of his voice did crazy things to her insides. She leaned toward him without meaning to.
"Seeing just you and Antonio in that room like that... I guess I got jealous. I'm sorry."
He pulled her close. His strong arms enveloped her, warming her from head to toe. Instinctively, she wrapped her arms around him.
"I hope you can forgive me," he murmured against her ear. Tiny kisses trailed a wet path from her earlobe to her mouth. His tongue parted her lips with expert precision. Unable to think, she simply reacted to the delicious taste of him and sensual pleasure of his mouth on hers.