Chapter 1

"But you kept on searching/Both Land and Sea/ I sing Hallelujah that you Found MeÖ"

Dusk had settled over Llanview and lights were flickering on outside Evangelineís office windows.

"Evangeline, okay if I come in?" Blair asked, looking abashed standing in the office door. "I need to say sorry for the tossed drink and the rant."

Evangeline leaned back in her chair as she beckoned Blair to enter. She did a mental check to see if she was wearing any colors or fabrics that would a stain if Blair lost it again and tossed something else at her.

"I really am sorry about the misdirected anger." said Blair, "I saw you but I was aiming for Todd! At least I was in my mind." Blair watched as Evangeline nodded cautiously. "I swear if not for my kids I would be ready to take my place in the Cramer family wing at St. Anneís."

"Blair!" Van struggled not to laugh at Blairís offhand comment; she knew the emotional stress Blair was enduring. "Itís alright, really. You didnít get my hair so weíre cool."

"Now thatís my kind of thinking!" Blair said laughing, "I AM sorry and Iím back in control. Iíve washed Todd out of my hairówherever he is."

"Blair, do you really think Todd just abandoned his family? Doesnít seem to fit what I know of him and have heard about him where youíre concerned. Why would he change tactics now?" Van wondered

"Donít know. Working on not caring. Aside from apologizing profusely I want to replace the clothes I probably ruined. The goings gotten tough, so the tough need to shop, Iím going into Manhattan tomorrow to spend a significant amount of Toddís cash. Care to join me?" There was the slightest note of pleading in Blairís voice, laced with agony that Evangeline picked up on and responded to. She and Blair knew each other causally and were friendly enough now that the bitterness of the rape trial was behind everyone. But neither had ever sought out the other for girlfriend time.

Still, Evangeline was intrigued by Blair and her bad girl reputation. Blair certainly never seemed to doubt her ability to pull and hold the man of her choice, no matter who else lays claim to him. And it always seemed to be Blairís choiceóshe never stood around waiting to be chosen. Blairís ruthless acquisition and dismissal of men was legendary in Llanview.

 

 

"My clothes are fine, Blair. But I can always stand to add to my closets." Evangeline looked thoughtful, shook out her hair and said "I havenít shopped til I dropped for ages now, love to join you."

Blair smiled and said, "Really? Great! Do you want to come to the penthouse or should I pick you up?"

"Why donít we just meet at the train station?" asked Evangeline.

"Train? No. Iím blowing TONS of Toddís money; for that we must be driven. Iíve already lined up a car and driver. Besides, I heard about what happened to you at the train station. You canít want to go there if you donít have to."

"Well, I wonít let a racist nut job stop me from living my life. But I certainly donít mind being chauffeured. Your place, say 9:30?"

"Thatíll be great." Blair responded, "See you tomorrow morning."

The next morning found Evangeline sipping coffee at Blairís when her cell rang. She instantly recognized Johnís direct work line. "Good morning, you." John said, a sleepy tone making his voice even deeper.

"It is morning and itís shaping up to be a good day." responded Van, "How are you?"

"Missing you. I havenít really rested in what seems like weeks. Its been a long time since our last full night together." John said, then he started to chuckle into her silence, "Too much information?"

"Aaah, no. No, itís great information. Iíve missed us too." she sighed into the phone, "Lets make just us time, can we?" No work talkóI donít want to fight. And since youíre being direct I will too: I just want to make love all night into the day."

He quickly responded "Where? How soon? And I havenít forgotten we still havenít had our uninterrupted day together. The one we were planning when Tico got shot and Cristian turned up alive, if not totally well."

"Is tonight too soon? Can you break away from work?

"I will get away, but itíll be after 8 p.m. Do you want to meet me for a coffee lunch?"

"John, I canít. Iím heading to New York with Blair. A late dinner is good. 9?"

You and Blair?" John queried "Sounds like a story. Tell me tonight, have fun."

Evangeline clicked off and went to the windows to look at the view.

 

 

"So itís true. You and the Chief of Detectives are closer than close. Your summer fling has gone into a new year." Blair commented while picking up her deep maroon suede coat and putting it over her arm. "Shall we go?"

Evangelineís expressive eyes widened as she beat back a blush she felt heating her cheeks. She never knew whether she was pleased othersí saw them as a couple or alarmed that people were paying attention to hers and Johnís private life. "We have the same taste in suede, Blair." Van glanced from Blairís coat to her own plum colored suede jacket. Shopping together should be fun."

"Ah, sidestepping are we? Well, weíll be in the car for enough time for me to thoroughly grill you." There was a mischievous gleam in Blairís eyes, "Gotta tell you, if McBain had a different job Iíd have given him more than a passing glance." "Different job?" "The Cramer women rarely stay outside the danger zones. John would be arresting relatives of mineóor meóon too regular a basis for us to have had even a little fling. He is sexy, though. Sexy, sexy, sexy. And tall." Blair drawled as she studied Evangeline. "And you body language and eyes suggest that I donít know the half of how accomplished he is. John strikes me asÖ.thorough."

Evangeline bit back a smile and exited to the elevator, visions of just how thoroughly accomplished John was swirling behind her eyes.

Van and Blair collapsed into a booth as Manhattanís throngs went by their window. After placing their food orders they raised their wine glasses in a toast to shopping. Van looked at Blair "You certainly know all the best places to shop from funky boutiques to designer showrooms and they all know you."

Leaning back against the cushions Blair shrugged, "The first time I married Todd was right before he came into the Lord money. When he was found to be the heir he was VERY generous with his wife. We invented bling bling. I used to own a cosmetics companyóI met everyone involved in any major way in the fashion and beauty world. Iíve kept up my contacts. I love clothes."

"You and Todd have a long history"

"Oh yes, long and utterly tortured." Blair cracked. "But before we stopped trusting each otherÖ.before he found out I tricked him into marrying meódonít ask, we were magic. Our bond was unshakeable. We had become tight friends and comrades in mayhem long before we married. We were fierce and feared; we totally got each other, knew and trusted one another. Weíve been trying to get back to that place ever since, and failing miserably."

Blair took a long drink from her wine then pushed the food around on her plate, "You and John have Ďití too. Heads turn when youíre together. You two change the dynamic of every room when you enter it."

"Stop. Youíre joking" Van said in amazement.

"No, Iím not. Iíve watched John watching you. Heís not capable of being indifferent to your presence. Oh, heís cool. But heís watching you come towards him; heís checking out the heads you turn. McBain knows every secret flame that burns for you."

"No."

"Yes. Itís a great thing. A man whoís secure enough in the relationship to be aware and amused by the other men who want his woman. Unruffled, calmly possessive, taking pride in her desirability and thrilled that itís all for him. You and John. Me and Todd, marriage no.1."

Evangeline was flustered and flabbergasted by Blairís observations. She wanted it to be true and was frightened it was true. Her feelings for John were already difficult enough to hold at bay. She was capable of losing hours in thought over the man. Remembering times together, feeling his hands move over her, his voice after lovemaking, his cries of pleasure during. She was already much too caught up in John McBain. Too aware of him, too needful of him, waaay too vulnerable in his presence while trying not to think of a future with him in it.

It was nearing 7 p.m. when the car carrying Blair and Evangeline crossed into the Lantano County limits. "Evangeline, hope you wonít have to dash around like a crazed woman to get ready to see John." They both had their long legs resting on the opposite seat as they sipped soft drinks. "No, Iíll get home in time to put stuff away and get myself ready. I had so much fun, Blair."

"I had fun too. You know, thereís nothing wrong with letting the man know you need him. You donít need rescuingówhat smart woman does? But that doesnít mean you donít need him or want to be needed by him. Grown-up to grown-up." Blair glance out the window reflective and more than a little sad, "Todd and I have wasted years not saying clearly what we want and need from each other. Youíre not a game player like Iíve been but you donít seem very willing to tap into your emotions. Let them take you where you need to go so you can say what must be said by somebody in a relationship."

Evangelineís laughter took Blair by surprise, more so when Van couldnít seem to stop laughing. Blair leaned over to where Van was doubled up on the seat, practically falling on to the floor from laughing so hard. "Whatíd I say?" Both of Blairís eyebrows were raised.

"Oh Blair, letting feelings take over is EXACTLY how John and I got together in the first place." Then Evangeline fell back in her seat and continued to laugh.

As the driver piled her purchases on the sofa Van looked at Blair "Iím really going to have to up my billable hours to make a dent in what Iíve just spent."

"Yes, but youíll look so good while youíre racking up the hours, the pay and the court wins. Thanks again for coming with, Van, and lets do something again soon." Blairís eyes danced and she gave an evil grin "Hereís a vision if Todd ever returns and lives long enough picture this: me and Todd, you and John, Dorian and David, Kelly and God-forbid but probably Kevin around a dinner table sharing a meal. Toss in RJ and Lindsey, Daniel and Nora, and Bo and whoever heís with now, Paige? Canít you see the guys trying to make polite, idol chitchat over sports or something?"

"John doesnít do idol chitchat; although he is usually polite no matter what." Van had a clear picture of the women trying to keep the conversation going and the men out of each otherís faces. Still, she was happy to hear someone besides Nora and Michael speaking as though she and John were the done deal. Fated to be mated.

As the car whisked Blair away Van said out loud "Donít want the nonstop drama but everyone know Todd loves Blair. Must be great to know sheís loved by him no matter what. He isnít always there right when she needs him but he does always show up eventually." Deep in wistful thoughts she put away her purchases, showered, changed and turned her attention to the night stretching out ahead of her with John.

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