Chapter 4

Two months have gone by and Evangeline has pretty much completed setting up her move to Llanview and is getting acquainted with the people in John’s orbit there and letting his family experience her a bit more. Returning to his room from an engagement party for Nora and Daniel John puts the key in their door while asking “Sooo you seem kinda off kilter and a bit jumpy tonight, nothing wrong with the move is there?” He opens the door and flips the light switch on, “Just continually going over the final details, my head is full of aggravating possibilities for disaster even with bringing less than a third of my stuff over here.”

Flopping on the couch while hiking her fuchsia dress up slightly Evangeline curls around a pillow, “Tonight was….fun would be overstating things, interesting covers it I guess. You do know that Cris Vega guy wants you dead, right? Although, now not quite as dead as before. I remember you were more than a little ticked about how that Vegas deal went down, I thought you might quit the Bureau behind that. What changed your mind?”

“Cris is a kid, I can handle his anger—which is justified on his part up to a point. I was doing my job but things got out of hand and he and his wife should’ve been pulled out of that mess sooner. I was going to leave the FBI but I still believe I can accomplish more with them than working for a police dept. What makes you think Cris is less pissed with me?”

“Oh, he’s mad about the lost time but he’s vibing that wifey has more than a little thing for you. Natalie? Is that her name? Who wants to come home from the dead to find their spouse longing to sleep with the enemy? Cris was surprised and pleased to meet me and to know our history is substantial and only getting stronger. He certainly gets that no man would leave my bed for a Natalie Buchanan, it just doesn’t happen in the real world, it barely happens on soaps and in sappy romance novels.” Van did a sensual stretch out on the couch aware of John watching her, “Girlie has a mad crush and Cris doesn’t like it—doesn’t matter what did or didn’t happen between you. Be careful John, she doesn’t strike me as clever enough to not pant over you in public; probably in an effort to incite her husband. She doesn’t seem to get that whomever he was before, I’m sure he’s a very changed man now. You can’t survive what he did by being a nice guy—kidnapping and torture always take their toll.”

Hell, I know he’s changed, he’s an up and coming hit man. Fortunately, I know the man he is now and his rep, but he hasn’t a clue about me. Something to be said for moving about my professional life like a cloud of smoke.

Something in her voice has John quietly on alert, maybe another small piece of the puzzle, illusion and mystery that is Evangeline will come out. For the hell of it he decides to ask a direct question, one he’s sure she’ll deflect but her non-answers are clues sometimes if he listens between the lines and breaks it down in his quiet time.

“Do you know someone that was kidnapped?” Van’s perfectly arched eyebrow raise in confusion at the question. “I mean, the crowd you party with is wealthy, visible and all, any of them ever have that experience? You seem to have a clear understanding of what Cris probably went through. A friend told you what happened to them?”

Looking at him she responds slowly and from a place in her voice that’s far, far away “I know about kidnapping because it happened to me as a child. That’s how my life—as I live it today, began, based on being taken. It still resonates through everything all these years later. You look like you could use a beer. I’ll get you one.” Going to the mini-fridge she’d insisted on having Van pulls out a beer and a Coke. Opening and handing the beer to John she’s astonished that she told him the truth without dodging, it all just rolled out of her mouth without a thought to lie. A lie was normally her first impulse when people asked about her past, tried to get personal and in her business. It was among her first and most important lines of defense, her fatal beauty coupled with a useful lie. Uneasily Van thinks if living together this short amount of time is making her this honest there’ll be nothing but pain ahead for them.

John only registered the beer in his hand because the cold bottle was bringing him out of his fog of shock. “You were kidnapped and I’m just now…I mean, honey, how awful for you, your family. How old were you? If you want to tell me, want to talk about it.”

“I don’t want to but since I opened this up I’ll say what I can until I can’t speak of it.” Looking at the unopened soda she gets back up, “I’ll need a real drink for this, where’s the rum?” Fixing her drink she spoke with her back to him. She didn’t want to see his reactions, his pity for the girl she had once been. “In hindsight, with the information I’ve pieced together I was just at the right place at a very wrong time when a judge’s daughter was kidnapped and I gave into a stupid impulse—which is why no matter what you might believe about my adventures I am NEVER impulsive or careless. It happened at my birthday party, I turned eight and Carla was a guest. The kidnappers figured, rightly, that security wouldn’t be a real issue. She was one of my two best girlfriends and when they grabbed her, I grabbed back and like an idiot held on to her kicking, screaming and they took us both.” She went and sat back on the couch, “I tell you no good deed goes unpunished. Most of it is just a blur of days on end of misery and hunger, always moving. Somewhere along the way Carla and I were separated—to my knowledge she never made it home. They took me to these docks somewhere, I think of it as being in California but I could be way wrong. They gave me over to a ship’s captain and his wife and I was put to work for them. We set sail the day after the exchange was made and I didn’t see these United States again until I was 17.”

John moved over to her, he wanted to wrap her in his arms and tell her to stop he didn’t want to hear anymore but he decided she’d stop talking whenever she felt like it and he needed to know her past to understand the secrets of her present.

“They told the crew and other people that I was their foster child, not that anyone really asked questions. I did come to love the sea and that’s why I can handle any type of ship no matter the size usually on my own, I’ve done every job related to boats there is, twice over. By the time I came back to America my old life didn’t even surface in my dreams anymore. I couldn’t recall the faces and names of my family, I didn’t know where I was from anymore and anyway, I had a new birth certificate with a new name that said I was born in Brazil and a passport that said I lived in Hong Kong.”

Van stirred and ran her fingers through her hair and over her face, “To their credit they never tried to make money off me sexually and believe me there’s a thriving market in that and the more exotic-looking the girl the better. In Asia and the Middle East where we often docked and did business I was very exotic indeed. In my life I’ve used my sex appeal to lull and beguile men and women to get what I needed, but I pride myself on never trading with sexual favors. It’s a small thing, but it means a lot to me that I only slept with men that I really wanted to be with for whatever the reason but no financial agenda was attached. Can we talk about something else?”

“But what about your family? Ever find them or find out what happened to them?”

“No changing the subject, huh?” Van said looking at the floor.

“I’m sorry, yes, we can drop it.”

“I found what was left of them when I was in my early 20s. They really suffered with my loss and I’m afraid my reconnecting with them couldn’t change all that had happened, all they had lost and what might have been. I was this ghost child made solid and all grown; and weary, so world weary. I’m only glad I got back while most everyone who was there that horrible day was still alive. Now, most are dead. It was as though they were just holding on until some resolution on the disappearance of their child was made and once they had it, able to see that I was alive at least if not well, I somehow gave indirect permission for them to let go and they did. My parents died within that first year that I came back to them, my sister died in a car crash two years after. My grandparents on both sides are still alive, an aunt from my mother’s side and an uncle from my dad’s family. I’ve done what I could for them to ease them emotionally from what happened and to help out now that the big family houses are empty of children and no grands or great-grand kids have filled up the space. There’s only me and I’m out of the country most of the time, until now.”

“And I’m not the woman they envisioned, I didn’t lead the girl’s life, there’s not much gentleness or warmth emitting from me. I am not fond—at all—of my fellow man.” Evangeline leaned back and sucked a melting ice cube into her mouth as John watched silently.

No warmth or gentleness in her? She’s all that and more with fire and the most intrinsic seductive desire at her core, it pours out of her in bed with a capacity for caring that’s so huge and heartbreaking.

But now he knew a portion of the source of those restless dreams bordering on nightmares from when they were first together. She’d spring upright from his arms, her eyes wide and unseeing, batting his hands away as he tried to touch and comfort her and wake her up. And that first time after they’d really made love and not just experienced their usual incendiary time between the sheets; partially on top of her stroking and inhaling her as their eyes and bodies told their souls something unexpected had just happened that neither could turn away from. She had frozen beneath him then went into a zone he couldn’t pull her out of or follow her into. When her eyes refocused he realized she didn’t recognize him, still wasn’t seeing him as John and she’d violently pushed him off her with a display of quickness and strength that gave him his first real belief that could handle herself in any situation.

Over the years John had come to know when she was slipping into that zone, although he was never sure what would set her off and flip her out. He had discovered small ways to coax her back to him into the here and now. “Hey, why don’t I read to you? Lets get in bed, I’ll make hot chocolate and maybe start that scifi book you picked up last week. Or I can read something you already know and love and want to hear again.

Van’s head was buried in her hands again, rubbing her temples she looked up at him through her curtain of hair and gave a small smile, “You pick, and just make it a story with no possible correlation to real life, the world we actually exist in. Will you drink some hot choc with me or still not manly enough for you?”

“I never said that.”

“Yes, you did.”

“No, I said that powdered box stuff was sacrilege and mini-marshmallows!—Wimpy. Unfortunately, right now that’s all we have so I’ll have to lower my standards.”

“John, I want hot chocolate and you, in bed…” he sends a seductive smile her way, “along with a good book! You pick and read to me.” Unfurling her long legs she holds out her hands to him and he pulls her up off the couch, “Did I tell you how stunning you looked tonight?” he asks, “This…illusion dress you called it? Throwing tantalizing peaks at your skin, your body. Can you have this dress made in different colors? A brown to hug your curves and make me glance three times, not just twice, to convince my body that you aren’t naked?”

Evangeline pressed herself against him and the scent of ocean and flowers teased his nostrils and sparked his senses. “That’s an interesting lead into reading to me. Can’t wait to see what book, along with other things, you pull out.” As they head towards the bedroom she twirls herself backwards into his arms pushing her buttocks firmly into his groin, “Come to bed Agent McBain, lets leave this world of heartache and misery until morning.”

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