Chapter 8

"Help." Layla spoke quietly into the cellphone. With Cristian in the next room, she didn't want him to hear this conversation. "Evangeline! Are you there?"

"I'm here."

She sounded exasperated. Layla could almost imagine the frown on her sister's face. "Never mind. Forget I called."

"I can't. What is it now?"

"If you're gonna take that toneó"

"Layla, please!" Evangeline snapped. "Just out with it. I'm listening. Why do you need my help?"

"Cristian is taking me to meet his mother," Layla blurted in a rush.

"You've eaten at the diner a bunch of times. You already know Mrs. Vega."

"Not as my mother-in-law. She's going to hate me."

"What do you want me to do?" Evangeline asked. "I know her, but not that well. I doubt if I can run interference."

"You can't hurt," Layla said. "She's always asking about you and how you're doing in D.C. I think she likes you."

"What does that have to do with anything? You're getting the marriage annulled, right? Or have you changed your mind?"

Layla sighed. She didn't have a clue to the answers. Every time she reached a clear cut decision, Cristian found a way to distract her. He seemed determined to keep her as his wife. His interest touched her heart far deeper than he had a right to.

"Well?" Evangeline asked. "Have you?"

"I don't know what I'm doing."

"I can tell. Look, I'll meet you at the diner. Don't worry about it. Just be on your best behavior." Evangeline chuckled. Then, the light went dead.

Layla rolled her eyes. It was just like her sister to have the last laugh. She closed her cell phone and tossed it into her handbag.

This entire thing was getting out of hand. What did she know about being married or meeting a mother-in-law? None of her previous relationships ever lasted long enough to progress to the next stage of meeting family. This crossing over into new territory freaked her out and she didn't like that one bit!

"Ready?" Cristian held her jacket and purse. He looked delectably delicious in a pair of black jeans and a matching shirt.

"Not exactly."

A sexy smile lit up his face. He took her hand and pulled her to her feet. "It won't be that bad. Mamí will be excited to have a new daughter."

"She won't be excited about me. I don't think she likes me."

"She doesn't know you," he said, turning her as he slid her jacket up her arms.

"Neither do you."

"I know you well enough."

"No, you don't," she argued.

After buttoning her jacket, he rested his hands at her waist. "What I don't know I'll learn."

She had no argument for that. In fact, the more he persisted, the more intrigued she became with the idea of being Mrs. Cristian Vega.

~* ~

Evangeline left Nora's office with the intent of meeting Layla at the diner. A detour through Angel Square slowed her down. She enjoyed this park. It was so beautiful and peaceful amid the sometimes rowdiness of the neighborhood. Just to think her brother-in-law sculpted the majestic statue that stood as the park's centerpiece.

She paused at the base of the beguiling statue. A man who created such beauty had to possess a plethora of positive attributes. Maybe Cristian Vega would be good for her sister.

"Hi."

The seductive husky voice produced a distinctive reaction inside Evangeline. She hitched a quick breath and slowly turned to face the Chief of Detectives.

"Hello."

"I was hoping I'd see you again," he said. "I was hoping you'd stay in Llanview."

"I am for a few days."

A teasing smile twitched at his mouth. "And after that?"

"I haven't decided, yet."

He moved to a bench and sat. "There aren't many defense attorneys like you."

"I'll take that as a compliment, I think."

He patted the space beside him. "Sit. I don't bite."

"I can't stay long. I have to meet Layla."

"I won't hold you if you don't want to stay." His blue eyes twinkled with humor and a spark of interest.

Laughing, she sat on the bench. "That sounds like words to a song."

"I think I heard it somewhere once, but I can't remember where."

"That's how it goes sometimes."

"Going... You left so suddenly. I wondered if what happened in the basement...if the fallout with RJ was the reason why you left."

A course of anxiety trickled down her spine. She shifted uncomfortably. This was the conversation she dreaded having. She never imagined he'd have the courage to go there.

"Does it matter?"

"Surprisingly it does. I almost feel guilty about it."

"You shouldn't," she said. "We were two consenting adults. I thought we admitted as much."

"We did, but then you left."

"Don't get your ego in a state," she said. "I didn't leave because of you."

"Didn't you?"

The question cut her deep. Instead of answering him and admitting anything to herself, she rose and left him alone in the park.