Chapter 5

“You’re looking for a house?” Antonio asks looking over John’s shoulders at the real estate section, “Or is it more Evangeline wants a house?”

“Hey Antonio, how are things?” John asked leaning back and rubbing his eyes, “Law business booming?”

“I do alright; word’s spreading to potential clients. With my ill-gotten Santi gains I don’t have to worry anymore about taking cases I don’t believe in to make the rent.” Sliding into the seat across from John Tonio plays with the newspaper cluttering the table, “Hey, why don’t you show Evangeline Lion’s Heart? She might be able to break the curse on that place.”

“I thought you were moving there, man.” John kidded.

“Oh, hell, no. I want Jamie to have room to grow and run around in when she’s older but never will I let that creep show of a place touch her and her childhood.”

“So you want me to have it? Let me guess, you’ll sell it cheap.”

“I’m willing to give it away to the right person.” Antonio laughed, “Adriana doesn’t want it either. She’s gotten over her romantic notions about Tico and his life.”

“Considering the occupants before the Santis was Mitch Laurence with Jess squarely in the center of both of those nods to insanity why would I subject my woman and our happiness to that house of horrors?” John asked shaking his head.

“You wouldn’t want to but pragmatically where else will you live that even begins to embrace the elegance and class of Evangeline?” Tonio leaned forward, “I’ve seen her and talked to her a little bit, man, you’ve got to up your game if you want to keep her. You know, just show her you’re thinking of her every comfort.” Leaning back he picked up the utensils and began to tap a light beat, “Even if it’s not to Lion’s Heart, I know you’ve got to move.”

John glowered at Antonio’s spot on take of things; Van wasn’t pressuring or pushing but his little place was just that, little. Van called it cozy, but he had glanced at her inventory sheets of what would arrive in a few weeks’ time and he had to get them moved to some place spacious and then some.

Opening up to him a bit more about her family John now knew Van originally came from old money and quite a lot of it. Long ago he’d recognized that she had more than a fair amount of her own disposable income, which she said little on where and how she had acquired it. But her toys were high-end sailboats taking her way off the beaten track for vacations; all of her jewelry he had come to realize was the real thing and she disdained diamonds as too common.

Recently as they had finished a lunch date at the Palace, John had introduced Van to Kelly and Blair Cramer and to David Vickers. The three of them had gushed over her clothing, causing John to realize that she was wearing the equivalent of his entire month’s salary, gross, not net, on her back and feet. And she didn’t have on any significant jewelry at all.

He had pushed their living together and now he was feeling unworthy. He had to offer her a suitable house, a great place an eternal wanderer would want to make into a home. Lion’s Heart, John reluctantly conceded could be it. Sighing he put his hands over his face, “I’ll show it to her without mentioning the recent history and see if she clicks with the place.”

“You will? Whoa, so this IS love for John McBain. This is what love looks like on you.” Laughing Tonio gets up and pulls out his keys, taking two off the ring with a slip of paper dangling from one. “Here are the keys and the security codes for the alarm. I’ll let the agent know to expect visitors any day now. I’ll make you a sweet deal just to unload the joint. Bye, John.” Placing the keys on top of John’s paper Antonio left.

Evangeline was finishing up a tour of the health club with a fitness instructor when she dropped the brochures and forms the instructor had given to Van. Bending to pick them up Cristian’s fingers brushed Van’s as he gathered her papers and returned them to her grasp.

“Hello Evangeline, nice to see you. You’re joining the club?”

“Cris, hi, how are you? I’m thinking this will take some of the stress off from moving around the world.” Noticing his nails she cocks her head and looks at Cris, “Are you painting again?”

“I’m cool. How do you know I’m a painter?”

“Oh, I was getting the lay of Llanview’s land and I stopped into the gallery up the way, owned by Lindsey, isn’t it? RJ’s squeeze? She showed me examples from her main roster of artists and your work caught my eye. And you have paint on your fingers and nails; in colors that tell me you’re no house painter. You’re damn good.”

“Really, you think so? Thanks.” Cris felt as though he was going to blush from her compliment. Dorian, Kelly, Jess and Viki had been talking about Evangeline earlier at Llanfair and mentioned that she was bringing a sophisticated, European flavor to Llanview as they puzzled over how she hooked-up with Agent John McBain. Cris had noted Natalie lurking in the background listening too, and not liking their favorable assessment of Evangeline with John.

“I’d like to see more of your newer works as you get close to finishing them. I’m sure it’s weird to be back doing stuff from before your ordeal. Tough to adjust, I know.”

“Yeah, everyone’s trying to help me out…”

“Um-hmm and I bet you don’t know whether to thank ‘em, slap ‘em or both. I know that feeling too. Those annoying feelings of guilt because they’re just trying to help and they love you so much and you just want them to go away and stop treating you like a rare and precious exhibit piece.”

“Yeah, yeah! You do know.”

“Oh, I do. Listen, I’ve gotta go but I’ll see you around the weight machines. I’m pretty sure I’m gonna join.” Van flashed him a joyous smile and walked out the door.

“Damn, damn, how did McBain get lucky like that? How do Natalie and I get back to that feeling? Do I even want to?” Revisiting the encounter and filtering it with remembered tidbits about Van from Nora’s engagement party Cris didn’t see Evangeline pause in front of the glass windows and watch him from behind her sunglasses.

Smiling to herself Van sized him up then walked away from the windows thinking about and sorting through all she knew and had more recently gleaned about Cristian Vega. She knew he had done some tricky hits and gotten away clean without a whisper among the international gossips that those people had died through assassination. Van was puzzled that his skill had been deployed to off Tico Santi and wondered if it was a personal revenge for his lost year and coming back a refined killer, to quietly expedite financial gain for Antonio and Carlotta or if some rival had paid very well to make sure Tico died and stayed dead. Being able to casually keep track of Cris was an extra bennie of her Llanview move; but she couldn’t afford to make John the least bit suspicious and she hadn’t figured out a way to get him off the Santi murder investigation. For such a small town there certainly were a lot of murders going around! Complicated, involved killings that warranted attention from Quantico’s best.