Chapter 12

"Hello, little darling."

Evangeline smiled at Asa's boisterous greeting. Representing him had been an exercise in patience. The Buchanan patriarch had a way of doing things that didn't always gel with the law.

"Hi, Asa. Good morning," she said. "How are you?"

The older man seemed to fill up the lobby of the Palace Hotel. She was on her way to checking out when he stopped her. A few minutes of conversation wouldn't be so bad. Her train back to DC wasn't scheduled for a few more hours. In that time, she planned to say goodbye to Layla and maybe visit Michael at the hospital.

"I'm fine." He took her hand and raised it to his lips. "You're as beautiful as ever. Why didn't you tell me you were back?"

"I'm not exactly back." She carefully removed her hand from the flirtatious gentleman's grasp. "I was visiting my sister. Now, I'm on my way back home."

"Don't go." The words came out more an order than a request. His blue eyes twinkled as he smiled. "Join me at the bar."

His interest intrigued her. She nodded acceptance and followed him to the bar. He led her to a secluded corner booth. A waiter appeared as soon as they sat. Asa ordered coffee for both of them. His highhanded manner didn't offend her. That was Asa Buchanan. If he behaved differently, she'd think something was wrong.

"Okay, we're here. What's really going on?"

Her eyes widened at his direct approach. "I'm visiting Layla. That's it in a nutshell. No ulterior motives. Just family."

"You're not happy in Washington," he said. "Don't try to deny it. I can see it in your eyes."

"I'm not unhappy there," she argued. "Washington is very political. I knew that when I moved there."

"But you don't like it, do you?"

The waiter returned with their coffee. Asa drank his black while Evangeline added cream and sugar. After the waiter left, Evangeline said, "What does it matter?"

"You mean why do I care?" He gave her a wide smile. "I like you, Evangeline. I always have. I like your spunk. You're a brave woman who's not afraid to take chances. Buchanan Enterprises could use you."

This came from left field. "Are you offering me a job?"

"Isn't it obvious?" He took a sip of coffee and leaned back against his chair. "BE's legal department is in dire need of new life. Of course, we'll pay for all your moving expenses. How soon can you start?"

"I haven't said yes."

"You will." He smiled like the cat who swallowed the canary. "This is an opportunity you can't afford to ignore."

* - * - * -

Layla pocketed the tip from her customer and glanced at the clock behind the bar. Evangeline was supposed to stop by Capricorn before taking the train back to DC. Her sister was never late. With every second that ticked by, Layla became more worried.

"What's wrong?" Antonio asked. He beckoned to her with his forefinger. "You haven't been yourself since you came in."

She frowned. She knew Antonio had her under his watchful gaze, but she didn't expect him to be that attentive.

"Nothing. I'm fine."

"How's married life treating you?" He poured coffee into a mug and leaned back against the counter.

"I have no complaints," she said. His interest in her marriage to his brother went beyond idle curiosity. It's no secret that she had a slight crush on Antonio when she first moved there. But since he didn't pay her any attention, she moved on.

"Hey, Layla." Evangeline rushed in breathlessly. "I'm sorry I'm late."

The sisters hugged. "I was afraid you left."

"I wouldn't leave without telling you goodbye," Evangeline said, "and it looks like I won't have to tell you that at all."

"What do you mean?" Layla frowned.

"I'm not leaving."

Layla released a loud squeal. "Oh, my God! Really? Why not? This is great!"

"Asa Buchanan offered me a job and I accepted." She slumped onto a bar stool. "I can't believe it. Everything happened so fast. One minute, I'm headed toward the registration desk and the next, I'm sitting in the bar and contemplating a job offer."

"Wow." Layla squeezed her sister's hand. "This is amazing."

"It sure is," Antonio agreed. He pulled Evangeline into a quick hug. "Welcome back."


"Antonio, do you mind if I take a break?"

He shook his head. "Go ahead. I'll stay on the floor until you come back."

"Thanks." She took Evangeline's hand and pulled her sister to the patio outside. "Are you sure about this?"

"Yeah. I didn't want to admit it, but I've been homesick for Llanview. Plus, you're here and it's been awhile since we were on the same coast. I've missed you."

Layla nodded. "I've missed you, too."

"I have so much to do. I've already resigned from the firm in DC. I need to find a place to stay. Want to be roomies?"

"I already have a roommate and he's not big on sharing," Layla confided.

"So, the annulment is off?"

Layla nodded. "Cris and I want to try to make this work. I know it sounds crazy, but we feel so right together. What do you think?"

"You have to follow your heart and if your heart is leading you toward Cristian, you can't turn your back on that."

A sigh of relief pushed from Layla's soul. "I wasn't sure what you'd say."

"All I want is your happiness. Have you told Mom?"

"That's a phone call I don't want to make. Not because I think this is wrong, but you know how she is."

Evangeline laughed. "Mom is no pushover. But this is your life, not hers."

That was easy to say, but not so easy to live. Lisa Williamson had a larger than life personality. Layla had always fallen short of their mother's approval. On the surface, she pretended that she didn't care. Deep down inside, it's all she ever wanted. What would their mother think of Cristian Vega? Would it matter that Layla was falling in love with him?