Chapter Twenty Two:

ÖÖ..Michael kept his hand on Johnís shoulder to keep him from going after RJÖÖ..

Antonio entered Evangelineís room with John and Michael right behind him. Jordan was there and had just finished wrapping Evangelineís ribs because two of them were cracked. He turned as they walked in and asked them to give him and Evangeline a few more minutes. However, Evangeline said, "Thatís okay Jordan, they can stay." She had noticed the look in Johnís eyes and knew that there was no way heíd leave her.

Jordan explained to Evangeline that she wouldnít be able to take deep breaths for a few days and that heíd prescribe a higher dose version of Tylenol for her to take tonight so sheíd be able to sleep. He told her heíd drop off the prescription to her house later that evening.

While that comment would have usually set off a signal in John to ask Evangeline about her true relationship with Jordan, he was too busy just staring at her and realizing that he could have lost her that morning. Though outside, he seemed stoic, inside, he was frantic. He had a quick flash of Caitlyn and realized that he didnít want to go through that pain again. He vowed to himself then that heíd always take care of Evangeline. A touch on his shoulder from Michael was what brought him back to the present.

As Jordan and Michael turned to leave the room, Michael said heíd be right back with her release papers and then she could leave. Michael smiled at John as he and Jordan left the room.

Antonio told Evangeline he was glad she was going to be okay and that heíd meet her at her office at 9 am Tuesday morning to go over his testimony. She said that would be fine and she thanked him again for saving her.

Antonio said, "De Nada. It was the least I could do for you as good as youíve been to me."

As Antonio walked passed John to leave, John said, "Um, sorry about earlier and blaming you. Thanks for helping her."

Antonio nodded his acceptance of the apology and left the room.

John walked over and sat on the bed next to Evangeline and put his arm around her. She rested her head gently on his shoulder because bending over too much sent a pain through her side. John took a deep breath and then he said, "Iím sorry. Iím sorry I left you alone. I donít know what I would have done if something worse had happened to you. I promise this wonít happen again."

When Evangeline heard what John was saying, it dawned on her that this brought back every memory of Caitlynís death to him, just like when he had found Kathrynís dead body in her office. It sent a pain through her heart even more than the one in her side that he was feeling that pain again. She thought to herself that she didnít know if she could be the one to cause him pain like that again. She tried to reassure him that he wasnít to blame by saying, "You have nothing to be sorry for. It was just a weird situation with a crazy psycho. I shouldnít have had my guard down. Iím smarter than this. I shouldíve known this would happen sooner or later."

Her comment shocked John and he replied, "What do you mean you shouldíve expected this? Are you saying that you should have expected something like this because we are together and women fair badly around me?"

"No, no, no!" she exclaimed. "Iím saying I shouldíve expected this because of our skin colors being different. Not all people see a woman and a man; they see a black woman and a white man. Thatís all I meant. Itís not you at all."

He was staring at her as it sank in and he said, "I never think of us by our skin color, so I guess I just assumed that no one else would. What did the guy say to you? Do you think youíd recognize him if you saw him again?"

Evangeline replied, "Yes, Iíll never forget his face and that look in his eyes. I donít really want to talk about it right now. I just want to go home."

John didnít want to push her, so he compromised. He said, "Okay, we can talk about it when we get to your house, but before that, you have to go to the station and file a report. We canít let this guy get away with this."

Evangeline was about to say she didnít want to go to the station, but the look she got from John let her know that she wouldnít be able to avoid it. So, she said, "Okay, after we get to my house after the station, we can talk about it."

At that time, Michael walked in and gave Evangeline her release papers and they left for the station.

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As RJ left the hospital with Jamie, even though he really never wanted anyone to physically hurt Evangeline, he thought that this situation could help his case because she might be off her game now. He also felt a little glee that he was able to stick in a few harsh comments to McBain and McBain couldnít respond. He decided that it was the optimum time to turn the screws on McBain and he called Paul Kramer.

"Kramer" RJ said. "Start following kiddy McBain again and sabotage the Love Center one more time. ASAP!"

"I canít" Paul replied. "The police are on me for that other situation I told you about. I think they are following me."

"That would be my problem, why?" RJ angrily said. "You either do your job for me or face the consequences of you owing me money. Got it!"

"Okay, okay" Paul acquiesced. "Iíll set Shannon McBain up one more time. No reason to get physically threatening."

RJ just clicked his cell phone closed with a smile on his face.

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As Tico sat at Lionís Heart trying to figure out how to get out of Kevin Buchanan what he wanted, he received a call. The voice said, "Sheís been taken to the hospital. Operation Manuel Confusion complete."

Tico sat back in his chair smiling. His smile was interrupted by the irritated voice of Kevin Buchanan saying, "What are you smiling about? Why did you beckon me here?"

Tico slyly replied, "Donít you worry about why Iím smiling. Hereís the speech youíre giving on Thanksgiving evening now that you are Lt. Governor." With that comment, he handed him a piece of paper.

"No Thanks" Kevin replied. "I have my own speech already prepared."

"Itís not a suggestion Kevin" Tico replied sternly. "You will give this speech or maybe I should give Judge Hernandez a call."

Kevin glared at Tico and turned and walked out with the speech. "How did I get myself into this mess?" he asked himself. "Iíve got to get out of this some how and soon before anyone else is threatened."

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As the investigating officer at the station took Evangelineís account of what happened that morning, John sat across the room from her seething. He couldnít believe that someone put his hands on her to harm her and the reason the guy was doing it. It flashed in his mind what he had heard earlier about RJ and Kramer being seen together, what RJ had said in his office that day, what RJ had said in the hospital earlier and the fact that something like this had never happened before. He was forming the opinion that this wasnít a random hate crime and that there was something more behind it. He also felt like RJ was connected to it, but didnít have any idea why he would be. He was frustrated with the whole situation and he hurt because of what could have happened to Evangeline and for what had happened to Caitlyn and Kathryn.

While recounting her attack, Evangeline kept her eyes fixed on John. She could tell how with each word, he was becoming more angry and more frustrated. She could also tell that he was in pain because he was remembering Caitlyn. "Do I have the right to put him through this?" she thought to herself. Along with that thought, she also had swirling in her mind the attack, what her Mom had said, and what RJ had said. She was beginning to believe that she should get out of this now before it destroyed them all.

As they were leaving the station so John could take Evangeline home, Bo stopped them and told Evangeline how sorry he was for what had happened. He assured her that they would catch the guy who did this. He also told John to take the rest of the day off and stay with Evangeline. John and Evangeline thanked him and left.

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On the ride home, both were silent. John didnít want to push Evangeline because of the ordeal sheíd been through. He was scanning his brain to come up with an idea to make her feel safe and secure.

Evangeline was silent because her mind was spinning and she was trying to decide if she could be selfish enough to stay in this relationship with John at the expense of his recurring pain about his past. The attackerís voice, her Momís voice and RJís voice kept swirling in her head. She cared so much for John. She realized that she was sure that she loved him. What she didnít know was that if that love was enough to put them both through all of this.

 

When Evangeline came back downstairs after changing into some sweats, John had made her some tea. They sat on the couch while she drank it. John was waiting for a good time to talk. He still had an innate feeling that what had happened was more than it appeared to be. Finally, he couldnít hold it in any more. He said, "Can you tell me one more time what happened after I left you by Lunaís statue this morning?"

Evangeline winced and said, "I donít want to talk about it any more. You heard my story at the station. Why do you want me to tell it again?"

John rubbed her arm to sooth her and said, "I donít think it was really a racial attack. I think something more is going on here."

Evangelineís eyes were squinting when she said, "What are you talking about? I was there and it was a racial attack."

John could tell he was on a tightrope and that Evangeline was right at the edge of exhaustion, but he had to get it out. He said, "I think someone set it up to look like a racial attack and I think that someone could be RJ."

Evangeline sighed and winced simultaneously before she said, "I know that you think that women get hurt around you and that the attack must bring that all home to you, but why would RJ set up something like that? My God, his daughter was biracial and his granddaughter is of mixed ethnic origin too. While he may want to get at you, he wouldnít do anything physically to me and especially if it was race related. You have to accept the fact that this would have eventually happened and today was the day."

"I canít accept that Evangeline" John said. "I just canít. My gut tells me that there is something else going on here and if itís not RJ, itís someone else."

Evangeline looked into Johnís eyes and realized that he was sincere in what he was feeling. She felt like his theory was a defense mechanism to keep him from believing that another woman was hurt because of him. Because of the look in his eyes, the desperation he seemed to have trying to justify what had happened, her own insecurities that were settling in and the comments from her Mom and RJ, Evangeline knew what she had to do. She stood up from the couch and walked across the room. With her back to him, she said, "I canít do this any more."

From the couch, he said, "Okay, I wonít press you any more. We donít have to talk about it again. When we catch the guy, Iíll get it out of him what really happened."

Evangeline choked up and said, "Iím not talking about this conversation. Iím talking about us together. I canít do this, us together, any more."

John stood and started walking toward her saying, "No, no, no. You donít mean this. Youíre just stressed out from everything that happened today." By the time he was finished speaking, he was right behind her and he gingerly put his arms around her. He was breathing frantically into her ear.

Evangeline was glad she wasnít facing him and that he was behind her because if she had to look into his eyes, she wouldnít be able to do this. She said, "I do mean this. I canít do this any more. I need space, especially after what happened today."

John instinctively held her tighter and then from her tensing up, he could tell he was squeezing her too tight. He relaxed his grip a little and said, "No, you canít mean this. Youíre not going to let some bigot come between us. Youíre so much stronger than this."

"Iím not stronger than this" she replied. "Everyone thinks that I am, but Iím not."

"Yes you are" he asserted. "I know that you are. If youíre not, Iíll be strong enough for the both of us. I canít let you walk away from me. I love you." He shocked himself that he let that out, but it was too late now to take it back and heíd felt that way for so long.

His _expression of love made Evangeline gasp and she turned in his arms to face him. Her mind was reeling with his statement, but she knew she had to finish what she started. She knew that even more now that he had told her that he loved her. Her potentially being hurt at some point couldnít be the source of his pain. She couldnít do it. She looked him in the eye and said, "Donít say that. Donít say that you love me and donít say that Iím a stronger person than this because Iím not."

"Why are you doing this?" he asked. "Why are you shutting down this way?"

"Look" Evangeline said. "Iím tapped out. Iím tired. I canít handle everything any more. Iím always expected to be the strong one, as a daughter, as a lawyer, as a mentor and as a friend. I thought the one place I wouldnít have to be strong was with you. When this all started, when we started, we decided that weíd be the place where we could come when the outside world became to tough. How can I come to us when the outside world is too tough if what is making the outside world tough is us? I feel like Iíve lost control of everything and I canít handle it any more." At those last words, she was crying.

John held her as she cried on his shoulder and he didnít know what to say. He was stunned by her admission, but he couldnít disagree with what she had said. He knew that she was hurting because her body was physically shaking as she was weeping in his arms and she never became that way. He was afraid that if he pushed her any more and insisted that she couldnít leave him that sheíd shut down completely. Even though it was the hardest thing he thinks he has ever had to do, he put her feelings first and said, "Okay. Iíll give you some space, but you canít ask me not to talk to you, or worry about you, or check up on you. I have to talk to you every couple of days for me to be able to do this. Can you go along with that?

Evangeline looked up at him and said sobbingly, "Okay. I can go along with that."

John released her from his grip and said, "I guess I should go." Just then, the doorbell rang.

John walked to the door as he was leaving and greeted Jordan who was standing there with Evangelineís medicine. "Take care of her" John said as he left.

Jordan went into the living room and saw Evangeline sitting on the couch crying. He wasnít sure what had happened, but he could tell it was bad. He had known Evangeline for a long time and had only seen her this way maybe once. He decided to be there for her as a friend the way that she had always been there for him.

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After Jordan left, Evangeline had taken the medicine and gone up to bed to get some rest. She was exhausted physically and mentally. She had talked to her Mom and told her that she broke off things romantically with John. Her Mom told her that she was doing the right thing.

As she lay in bed, slowly fading into sleep, she thought to herself, "When did this happen? When did I go from being happier than Iíve ever been to as sad as I was when my Dad died? Why did that guy have to attack me today and burst my whole bubble? Where did I get the strength to put Johnís feelings above mine? My God, he said he loves me. He canít. He just canít. Iím doing the right thing. I canít do this any more."

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John was bewildered as he left Evangelineís place and really didnít know where to go. Everywhere in town reminded him of her, so he went back to the station to work on tracking down the guy that had attacked her.

He sat at his desk thinking, "What happened? This morning, I wake up with her in my arms, smiling like the morning sunshine. Now, she can hardly stand to look at me in the eye? Why did I wait so long to tell her that I love her? Obviously, it was too little too late. Once again, my emotional barrier has come back to bite me in the butt. Why did that guy have to attack her today? Why did he attack her? I know there is more to it and if itís not RJ, then I have to figure out what it is. When did this happen? When did I end up back to the place where I was when Caitlyn was murdered? When? Why?"

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