Chapter 10

That was it. Just like that it was the end of their conversation. All at once Evangeline was struck with the burn of instant regret. The man beside her tensed almost immediately at the sound of RJ Gannon’s voice. A minute ago they had been talking …really talking. For the first time in what seemed like weeks it felt like they were actually getting somewhere. It felt like, well like finally he kid-gloves had come off and they were actually being honest about their relationship. Evangeline had made the decision, in that moment, to let John know what was in her heart. It had been a thought constantly invading every thought, threatening to overwhelm her. She was ready for him to learn the truth, to know what her true feelings towards him were. After that it would be up to him to make the next move, to decide whether this thing between them would grow further or finally be put to an end.

But as easily and as naturally as that moment had presented itself, it was gone. The walls John had built up around himself the ones she had worked so hard to break down, had gone up again with no warning. As he stared RJ head on, Evangeline could feel him slipping away from her, resigning himself to the emotionally closed off man she had met, over a year ago.

“Get the hell outta here,” John made an attempt to step towards RJ before he felt Evangeline’s fingers tighten around his wrist.

“I ah- wanted to see if you were alright.” RJ stepped forward, choosing to concentrate his menacing stare beyond the confrontational figure in front of him. Evangeline didn’t respond, she didn’t know how to. Obviously John was sensing some connection between her injury and RJ, if only he would just leave. Beneath her fingers, she felt John’s pulse quicken as the blood pumped through the veins in his wrist.

“Please don’t,” it was a mistake the moment the words left her mouth. John was a good man, a rational cop, but asking him to look the other way was on this was pushing it too far. John felt the urge to beat RJ senseless, but he fought against it. Seeing him rot away in a jail cell would have to do.

“I’m going to enjoy this,” John broke away from her grasp, walking so he was mere inches from the other man. The smile that played on RJ’s lips seemed to spread wider as he witnessed just how agitated John was. He enjoyed seeing Llanview’s ever calm and collected hero clearly disorientated and ultimately enraged. Good, he thought, very good.

John witnessed his gleaming white teeth appear as the smile took on a life of its own. John knew he had been right all along; RJ being here and Evangeline’s injury were definitely connected.

“You know when Evangeline finally presses charges, I’m gonna love nailing you to the wall.” The stupid smile vanished.

“John I need to talk to RJ…alone.” Both men returned their attention to Evangeline who had been watching the exchange as she held her breath.

RJ attempted a smile whilst John just stood there, a blank stare masking his disappointment. It was happening again, she was still protecting him, even after everything he had done put her through, why. John initially made no attempt to acknowledge her request. But it was what she wanted. Pushing past RJ he walked back out into the hallway, all he could think of was how much he hated him and how betrayed he felt by her words, all he wanted now was to get as far away from them as he possibly could.

“Well,” RJ started to move closer, bringing in front of her the small arrangement of flowers he had safeguarded behind him.

“Look-“ she held her hands up as if to fend him off. “I want you to understand something. I did NOT protect you out of some twisted sense of loyalty. I’m at a point RJ, where all my sympathy towards you has run out.” As he listened his eyes moved to her fingers, where they grasped the white sheets beneath her, twisting them as she spoke.

“I don’t want John getting involved in this…this…” She shook off the confusion when the words didn’t come. “He doesn’t need to get dragged down for my error in judgment. I made the mistake of trusting you once, never again. Somewhere deep down, a part of me will always care. But I want you; I need you, to stay away from John…and that means staying away from me.”

RJ stared at his ex-girlfriend with critical eyes. She was angry, and anger made people say things they didn’t mean. But every word out of Evangeline’s mouth was backed with incredible intense conviction. For a while all he had wanted was revenge, but somehow he had also hoped there was still some feeling left between them. But any hope for the two of them had vaporized the night he had laid his hands on her. He missed her, but he had gone too far, way too far.

“I guess sorry would be out of the question.” He responded apologetically, laying the arrangement of tulips on the table beside her bed. He watched her shake her head without hesitation. Sighing he decided to fulfill her request, but not before he said what he had come to say.

“You do know, no matter what you do, no matter how happy you are with McBain, you’ll never be number one.

“Stop it, RJ” she glared at him, wanting nothing more than for him to be gone.

“If it isn’t his work than it’s his dead fiancé, and let’s not forget about Natalie Vega. Anyone can see how he always runs to her rescue.” He head snapped up at the mention of Natalie.

“Is that what you want? To be home, wondering, waiting, while he chases that red-head all over town. C’mon Evangeline, you’ve never been much good at playing second best and you know it.”

Those last few words burned through her. Not so much that they were true, but somehow he had managed to voice her darkest fears.

“Get out RJ.”

He stared at her one last time, knowing his words had hit a nerve. The old RJ would want to kick her when she was down. But he had hurt her enough. She deserved better than John McBain and she definitely deserved better than him. RJ retreated from the room in silence, outside hr stepped into the hallway, feeling John’s eyes on him as he walked away.

Evangeline didn’t hear him as he walked back into the room. Her eyes were closed where she lay slumped against her large pillow. She sat with her head slightly tilted to the ceiling as she nursed the beginnings of a migraine headache.

John’s shadow loomed over her as he watched her quietly. All he wanted to do was reach out, make everything all right for her. They had been at each others throats lately, about work, about RJ but mostly about his feelings towards Natalie. He knew he had been acting like a jackass and he really had no excuse. But that was his defense mechanism, to lash out at her even though he knew she cared. Part of his problem was that to some extent, everything that she said held some truth. It was things he was never willing to admit to himself, and as a result he would turn it around on her, he knew what would hurt her and he used it.

But afterwards, after the words were said, he knew he couldn’t take them back. As always he felt the dark empty depression begin to settle in. It gnawed at him more and more these days. He didn’t like the man he was becoming and how much he was hurting her. She was the reason for so much of the good in his life. Being with her managed to awaken the John that had lay dormant since Caitlin. Her presence helped him fend off the demons of the past and forced him to be a better man. Then why was he trying so hard to push her away, he was offering her so many outs even though he knew, deep down inside that he would die if she walked away.

Evangeline’s eyes fluttered open. Her brown eyes seemed to search his for any indication that her actions hadn’t completely pushed him away. He sat down beside her, his icy stare studying every inch of her beautiful face, refusing to reach her eyes.

“I- uh, saw RJ in the hall,” he began, “I guess it’s safe to say you’re not pressing charges.” He smiled, but his eyes were empty of feeling.

“There’s no need to press charges,” she busied herself with the sheets on her bed.

“Aah, ok, so I guess you’re trying to tell me Gannon didn’t do this,” his hand reached across her touching the bandage that covered the sight of her injury. When Evangeline didn’t respond he stole his hand away, trying hard to fight the anger that boiled inside him.

“Why are you protecting him?” He got up to stare out of the window beside her bed.

“It’s not him I’m protecting.” She answered truthfully. She prayed that somehow he would understand the true meaning behind her words. “Why can’t you just leave it?” she was getting frustrated.

“Because I’m a cop and because anyone with half a brain can tell Gannon is feeling guilty of something.” He walked back towards the bed, leaning over her, his eyes drilling holes into hers.

“I can take care of myself,” she threw back.

“Yeah, well I can see what a bang-up job you’re doing of that,” his tone rose slightly making her shiver. “God, is it that hard for you to actually need somebody let somebody else be there for you!” his face stood mere inches form hers. Something in the way he said those words cut into an open wound. She cocked her head upwards, raising her voice to match his.

“John I’m sorry if you’re angry, that this is such a problem, and I’m sorry for having to keep this from you, I really am. But I WILL NOT apologize for not leaning on you every chance I get. I’m sorry I’m not some damsel in distress, like…”

“Like Natalie!” he finished for her. She breathed in sharply at the mention of the other woman’s name. “That’s what you were getting at, wasn’t it?”

“That’s not what I meant” she seethed

“Evangeline, whether you say it or not, I see it in your eyes. Its always there. It’s like your just looking for a reason for us to break up.” He breathed

“Look whose talking! All you do is push me away every chance you get.”

“What the hell does that mean?” he threw his hands up exasperated. “You know what; I dunno why we even bother.”

Those last words shook her to the core. Evangeline stared nervously at her fingers, not bothering to hold back her hurt. She was tired , tired of walking on eggshells, of feeling like she was on the outside looking in, and most of all tired of being hurt by John McBain.

“Why are we doing this?” she asked softly to no one in particular. “All we seem to do lately is hurt each other.” When John didn’t answer she chose to continue.

“Maybe-maybe we need some time off…”

Before he could voice his feelings John heard his phone ring inside his coat.

“Just get it, “she didn’t look at him as she curled up into a ball with her back to him.

John only half listened as he heard Antonio’s frantic voice. There had been a shooting. Tico Santi was in critical condition. Christian Vega was hurt, all hell was breaking loose.

“I’ll be right there,” he finished off.

For a minute he couldn’t think of what to say. Was she right? Did they need a break?

“I gotta go,” she made no move to acknowledge his goodbye.

The little space between them was nothing compared to the distance they had placed between their hearts.

“Ma’am… you shouldn’t be out of bed.”

Evangeline pulled the turtle neck over her head, just as the nurse walked in.

“There’s nothing to stop me from checking myself out.” She pulled on her running shoes before finally locating her coat behind the bathroom door.

“I should call Dr. Watts,” the nurse reached for the telephone.

“No. Look, I’m fine I just need to get home.”

The nurse seemed skeptical but Evangeline wasn’t gonna wait around and argue.

For the last hour she had been trying to get some sleep, but all she could think about was John and how she had let everything get so out of hand. She should have stopped it when she had the chance, before strings, before it came to this…

Evangeline shook her head to snap out of her pitiful state. Quickly she proceeded with the formalities surrounding her release. Once outside she breathed in the cold air. It was late and she was tired, all she wanted now was to go home and forget about John McBain.

“Whoa there,” the file folder narrowly missed Nora’s head as she walked into John’s office.

“Sorry,” he responded curtly, “you weren’t supposed to be there.”

“I hope not,” she closed the door before retrieving the paperwork.

“Heard about the Santi mess and Christian, can you believe it?”

“Yeah, it’s pretty unbelievable. Christian seemed to be doing ok, Tico not so much.”

‘I uh heard he was in a coma…but something tells me that was the last thing on your mind when you killed that folder. Everything alright…with Evangeline?”

“Maybe you should ask her?” he avoided her eyes as he sat back down. Nora squirmed in her seat; she was getting a weird vibe.

“Ok… that bad huh?”

“I dunno what I’m doing” he sighed making Nora laugh.

“I’m sorry, it’s just that…well, Evangeline said the exact same thing. Look, for what its worth whatever this thing is between you two, its gonna work out.” The conversation was cut short with a knock at the door as a uniformed officer entered, envelope in hand.

John opened it as the officer left.

“I should go, you have work to do,” Nora got up to leave as he pulled out the postcard inside it. ‘Remember what I said, ok?” John nodded his acknowledgment as he read the postcard, it didn’t seem to make sense as he read it over and over.

‘Old friends never die’

“Late night?”

Evangeline settled into the backseat, the cab driver was exceptionally chatty. She nodded, before returning her attention to the drizzle that seemed to form outside. The medication the doctor had offered was making her groggy and her mind was restless. But once she got home everything would be fine. She could settle into bed and get her mind off of everything, especially John.

It’s started to rain heavily, blocking her line of sight as they drove home.

“Wow, talk about rainfall,” the cabbie put his wipers on full power as he eased onto the bridge connecting to the freeway. At that instant Evangeline watched as a dark car sped past them at a ridiculous speed.

“Man, is he crazy?” The cabbie started to hit the brakes as the dark car suddenly pulled up in front of them. Before she knew what was happening, the cab was spinning. Evangeline’s hands moved to the door handle to steady herself as the driver fought to regain control of the car. Instinctively she reached for her seatbelt. The car was still spinning as she finally secured her seatbelt. The cabbie cursed as he lost all control of the vehicle and the car hit the metal railing on the bridge. On contact the cab catapulted over the railing before finally landing in a ditch.

Evangeline cried out at what seemed like a nightmare. She was upside down and her head throbbed. But to top it all off she couldn’t breathe. From where she was she could see the cabbie where he lay unconscious on the outside of the cab. Her lungs burned as she felt the seta belt, where it had wrapped tightly about her neck, threatening to choke her.

Everything seemed to blur as she felt the rain seep in, she flayed frantically, struggling to break her choke hold. Her mind was slowly slipping as she felt the seat belt suddenly loosen around her neck. The door to the cab was being forced open as smooth hands reached out to caress her face. Evangeline closed her eyes as she was lifted out of the cab and carried by strong arms into the night.

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