Chapter 10

  "Ok, hon, I need for you to go to the car and get the first-aid kit; no, wait, I saw a kit in the bathroom off the kitchen.  Please, will you get it for me?  Evangeline?  Are you hearing me?  Are you with me baby, here in Llanview in 2005?"  John moves closer to her but not so close that she might feel threatened.  He speaks softly and watches her eyes for signs of change and that her anger is easing.  When Van finally flicks her eyes in his direction he almost recognizes her for the woman he loves so deeply. 

 Silently she rises and leaves John alone with Durant, he isnít sure if sheíll get the kit or not but at least he can turn his back and feel comfortable that he and Durant were safe from her wrath for the moment.  As he checks over Durant in his mindís eye John keeps replaying everything leading up to Vanís attack and the aftermath. 

 It didnít seem likely that she had confused John Durant with someone else that she hated.  He tried to recall if heíd ever mentioned Durantís name to her before, apparently not, at least not a full name, but John was in the habit of calling him Durant, and sometimes John but how often did he say both names together? Okay, a common enough name.  I guess she wouldnít automatically put the name with this particular man. 

 Where was Michael?  How would they ever be able to live in this house after what heíd just witnessed her do and how did she take down a man more than twice her size without breaking a sweat?  Every possibility he thought of didnít bode well for their future.  Sighing, he remembered the many small ways Evangeline tried to warn him that he didnít really know her; not the woman she was when she was out of his arms.  A dangerous woman, efficient and ruthless in her quest; single-minded in her purpose, if  how she took down Durant and then kept at him destroying his every attempt at defense was any indication.  Who the hell was he sleeping with, in love with?  "A killer" keeps echoing through his mind, making his body tense up, "a smooth, cold killer, thatís who youíre in love with and you were too far gone to notice." 

 Finally Michael came rushing through the door and knelt beside them asking John questions in rapid sequence as he tended to Durant.  When John was able to pull back, get out of the way and let Michael work; he realized Evangeline had yet to return to his side. 

 "So what did Durant do to you or I guess it was more what he did to E?" Michael asked as he worked quickly and used his cell to speak directly to staff at Llanview Hospital, "I mean she shot of here so fast she nearly ran me over.  Should I be expending energy trying to save this guy if heís insulted or hurt your best girl?"

"Wait, you saw Evangeline?  When?"

 "I was arriving and she was driving away in your car.  Moving fast too, visibly upset from the glimpse I caught through the windshield."

 "Damn.  Donít let him die, Mikey.  Iím gonna go check on Evangeline.  Was she heading towards town?"

 "Looked like she might, she was pointed the right way. You go; the ambulance will be here soon.  I donít care what he said heís in need of more than a lone doctor.  Heís taken a serious beating.  I assume I should refer all questions about this incident directly to you?"

 "Yeah, and if Evangeline shows at the hospital before I do, under NO circumstances should you let her see Durant.  Keep them as far apart as humanly possible.  Iíll explain later."

 John located Durantís jacket tossed over a chair and pulled car keys out of the pocket and exited out the front door.  Heading toward the car he thought he could hear sirens in the distance and hoped they were responding to Michaelís call.  He was puzzling over why Durant had been adamant about no hospital but it was unavoidable, Evangeline had seriously injured him.  Starting up the car and heading back to Llanview John decided to go directly to the airport and see if Van was in the process of skipping town.  He pulled out his phone, punched in some codes and firmly asked for any and all information pertaining to any women fitting Vanís description boarding any flights commercial, cargo or a private jet.

 Eight days later and John is still clueless about Evangelineís whereabouts, Durant was recovering but unresponsive to any questions about Van and Mikey was working his last nerve with the worry in his eyes over his big brother.   All of his FBI connections were coming up dry on Evangeline; once again she had vanished from the planet, after leaving his car in Rodiís parking lot.  How is it that no one saw her there?  He had put out feelers to agents and snitches working in all parts of the world with ports of call to look for a stunner out on the ocean, probably alone, handling a boat that was meant to have a crew. Or worse, if they heard of any ship wrecks with a woman on board alone.

 After sidestepping his way through several meetings with Bo Buchanan and a variety of Feds from different agencies looking into Durantís beating, John had finally escaped the Llanview police station.  He didnít want to go back to his place but heíd already camped out at their dream home and spoken to the realtor several times since her disappearance.  John had forged ahead on faith and confirmed to Chao-Li that they still wanted the house and to draw up papers for the sale.  Quanticoís best still had his nose wide open for a woman who was an utter mystery to him.

Needing to work off feelings of anxiety and helplessness John decides to hit the bag at the gym.  Stepping out of the dressing room and heading for a bag John was pleased there was no one around that he knew; he couldnít bear any questions about Van no matter how benign.   Ninety minutes later soaked with sweat he gave up trying to escape and headed for the showers.  His anxiety had only spiked into a mounting fury, he was angry with himself for not digging deeper into her background; for allowing himself to be lulled into security with a woman who wouldnít or couldnít say that she loved him; for not taking her warnings about herself seriously enough.  Now he would find out who and what she was and he would start with the remnants of the family she was stolen from. 

 Leaving the shower deep in thought he bumps into a hard body that staggers a bit and steps back, "Sorry." John mumbles as he steps around the person without looking at them.  "McBain, figures you arenít paying attention to who you run over," Cris sneered "I hear your womanís had enough and took off without a backward glance or goodbye.  Good for Evangeline.  You know, I might just throw you Natalie and take Evangeline for myself."

 "Aw, what the hell,"  John mutters as he swings for his midsection landing a satisfying blow before Cris can avoid the punch, but he recovers quickly and his tackle slams John into a row of lockers.  John feels something pull and snap in his shoulder then a flood of pain that only fuels him to fight more.  Neither man is aware of how short or long the struggle lasts only that others are grabbing at them and pulling them apart as they thrash about to reach and hurt each other more.

 Arriving back at his room John leans his head briefly against the door before he turns the key to confront another round of emptiness.  Stepping inside he doesnít bother turning on the lights, instead heading straight for the bathroom to check out the damage of swelling and discoloration he knows has taken over several areas of his face and body.  His shoulder is on fire and he needs to call Michael, probably shouldíve gone right to the hospital but the throb of pain reminds him heís still alive, even if he doesnít want to be.  He nods grimly in the mirror at least most of the bruises are coverable with clothing.  That ringing in his ears and pinpricks in his eyes probably arenít a good thing, another reason to call his brother if he can stand the lecture.

 "Oh, John, I hope this wasnít because of me.  Itís not often that you allow yourself to take a beating.  Does the other guy look worse?" Evangelineís hands move over the tattoos he paid for to the new black and blue marks Cris left dotting his body.  Her hands come to rest on his lower back and begin rubbing lightly at the muscles knotted and bunched tightly. 

 "Yeah, I think so.  I hope so; I was definitely trying to hurt himÖand myself. I fought with Cristian Vega."

"McBain, you need to leave him alone no matter what comes out of his mouth.  Cris isnít one to mess with in his current state."

 "As long as your name doesnít pass his lips, Iíll let him live."

 "And people say Iím vicious," she jokes lightly knowing there was nothing amusing in her observation.

 "You are vicious arenít you?  Cruelly effective and thorough.  Are you home or only back to pack?"

 "Tell me what you want, and Iíll try to comply."

 "Iíd like some truth-telling.  Iíve replayed the beat down you gave John Durant over and over whether I want to see it or not.  I see your eyes, I watch you move.  WHO ARE YOU?  Who am I sleeping with and should I ever close both my eyes around you again?"  He could see his last words hurt her and was glad he hadnít totally imagined that she felt something for him.  But now wasnít the time to let his feelings cloud his need to know, even as her fingers felt so good on his skin and she was concerned and contrite that she had played a part in his looking for a fight.  Part of him wished sheíd use sex to divert him from thoughts and feelings he didnít want to face.  He wanted to forget; he needed her to make a believer of him again.

 Evangeline watched Johnís thoughts play out on his face and in his eyes and tried to gauge which approach to take with him.  He wanted her to seduce him; make him helpless in the force of need and want and give him an out to delay his endless questions.  She wanted to make love with him too; fearing it would be among the last times theyíd ever be intimate in any meaningful way again.  Soon there would only be the intimacy of anger as only former lovers can make each other insanely furious with the hurt of broken and lost promises between them.

 She was willing to give him what he wanted but for love she would offer him some truth to deal with first, "So, you want me to take you to bed so you can avoid responsibility for loving and wanting me?" she asked, "We can do that, but know that I recognize this ploy for what it is and I hear your cry underneath it all.  I want you, John, always, we can make love or we can have sex but what I wonít do is have anger sex with you.  Or we can try and talk, but Iím pretty sure you wonít like the direction a conversation will take."

"Because youíll just stonewall me?" he asked his frustration evident in his tone as he looked at her in the mirror.

 "Maybe Iíll tell enough of the truth to make you wish youíd never asked.  Iím being truthful with you right now, John. Tell me what you prefer?  Whatís in your heart?"

John turns from the mirror and looks at her, silently cursing himself and wanting to damn her and break free.  He stifles a choke of misery, "Come to bed, I need to feel your body underneath me and yielding to mine, the only way you ever acquiesce to me.  I need you now, God help me, help me I swear weíre both damned."

 Evangeline looks long and searchingly in his eyes as he walks her backwards into the bedroom, as she sits on the bedís edge she watches the doom lift from his eyes and the fire of passion turn them to crystal blue.  His fingers run through her hair, down her shoulders and come to rest under her arms; John pulls her further onto the bed and lies on top of her finding and filling her mouth with desire and hungry need. 

 Mindful of his wounds her hands roam his body finds his belt buckle unfastens it and unzips his pants.  Itís starting again, she canít keep herself separate from him thereís no longer any interior place for her soul to hide he owns her completely, her only salvation is that he doesnít realize it.  At first she doesnít really process his muffled words, she took them for moans of pleasure, then she hears him, "I love you, Evangeline, I love you.  Why canít you give yourself to me, trust me, us?" his voice breaks as he nuzzles and kisses the valley between her breasts and his hands pull at her panties moving them down her hips and thighs and over her kneecaps. 

 Dozing in each otherís arms after two more successive and equally torrid lovemaking sessions theyíre wrapped tightly around each other, holding on with everything they have and sure itís not enough.  Johnís eyes open reluctantly as he feels Evangeline shift a bit and cling to him even tighter, itís still night, not yet early morning and he knows theyíre both afraid of the conversations looming over them. 

 "Youíre not asleep are you?" he asks softly over the night sounds.  Her response is to entangle her body even more with his.  He moves one hand to her hairline stroking the strands off his jaw and back in place, the other hand slowly rubs her back.

 "What do you want to know, John?  But remember; be careful once out there people canít really forget whatís been said."

 "Why did you try to kill Durant?"

 "I donít try to kill people, if death is my goal, they die.  For now I just want to hurt him, not kill him, not yet anyway."

 "Did DurantÖ.do something to you, hurt you in some way?  I know he can be driven and ruthless."  He felt her blood moving swiftly through her body and then sheís still until she gives a tiny shrug and sigh.

 "Thanks to him innocent people, kids mostly, lost their lives or seriously wished they were dead.  I counted them as my family, my friends, the only ones looking out for me without any agenda as I looked out for them.  He used us as pawns to smoke out some nut jobs he was after.  He didnít care what he left in his wake.  My so-called foster parents had died, these kids were the only safety net I had in the world and he took it all away from me, from all of us.  Because we were young, poor and had no power he never looked back, never cared about the carnage he unleashed.  How can that sub-animal be a mentor of yours?!  Youíve called him a friend, almost a father.  Heís the poster child for a womanís right to have an abortion!!!  No one should have to live with the disgrace of having birthed that creature!  His mother probably blew her own brains out in horror of what sheíd let loose on the world."

 "I donít understand Johnís a federal prosecutor this sounds outsideÖ"

 "He wasnít always a prosecutor, although I guess he always worked for some branch of government or another.  Looking back now, this was probably some kind of Black Ops.  It doesnít really matter.  The creeps he wanted to nail liked the underage; sex is bad enough but there was torture, mutilation, sold, yes sold into sex slavery rings.  If Durant thinks your love for him will keep him safe from me, so very wrong.  I didnít have his real name then, I have it now.  I know his face today.  Heís mine, and it will NOT be quick a quick, merciful death.  I will shred him slowly, slowly; Iím damn good at what I do."

  Evangeline raised up on one arm and rested her head in her chin, keeping her eyes on Johnís as she spoke.  Now she paused, and taking a deep breath John sits up and brings her to his chest, cradling her quietly for a while.  When he feels her heart stop racing and slow to an uneven flutter and her breathing change to a shallow rasp he looks at her alarmed, "Are you alright?  Canít you catch your breath?  Honey, are you with me?"

 "Yes, Iíve been thinking back on those days non-stop since Durant entered our home.  Oh, I guess it isnít our home, huh?  We didnít sign papers; Chao-Li doesnít have a check."

 "I took care of the paper work and the deposit.  We have a home, if you want it still."

 "If YOU want it John, do you still want to be with me?"

 "There are still things you havenít said. What do you do for a living Evangeline?"

 Rubbing her eyes, she brushes her hair back from her face and leans into his shoulder, "These days Iím a sometime tomb raider, think Lara Croft.  And occasionally, still the best jewel and art thief in the world."  She really doesnít understand about the process of prayer but she thinks the chant taking hold inside her now might qualify, "Please, please, leave it with that, John.  Donít ask me what else Iíve done, still do for special friends."

 "AndÖyouíre a merc for hire?"

 Her shoulders sag, she could agree to that description which was touched by truth but it wasnít who she once was primarily. "Iíve done that work, but mostly, mostly Iím one of the less than handful of professionalís dictators, crime lords, the Bureau and others call in when they want to make sure no one ever has reason to suspect anything other than an unfortunate accident."

 "You do work for the government, if not the U.S. another entity." John whispered in relief, he could understand and excuse an agentís life.  He knew what was needed for the job wasnít always pleasant or tied to a strict and clear moral code.

 "No, John, I work for me. I do for me the jobs I have an interest in for reasons of money, or level of difficulty or maybe an old grudge I carry or to avenge someone I consider a friend or unable to do the job themselves.  Probably would never occur to them to handle things this way.  Iím an assassin by trade and profession. I learned from the masters and now Iím the best there is, probably ever because no oneís ever looking for someone like me."

 "Men are so clueless about whatís in the realm of possibility of what women will or will not do.  No one even whispers or hints at my existence because they have no idea; they would never think a woman did these hits.  And most of those who once knew are now deadónot by me.  I didnít want to make my living on my back; the only skills I knew I had were tied to being very seaworthy,  and alone on a ship of men without a protector for a young female is just suicidal.  The right or wrong of it all never factored in for me.  Iíd found something else I was good at, with a high tolerance for risk, and danger, if the payout was worthwhile.  And I always make sure that it is.  And I have no desire or intention of totally changing my work life.  I no longer need to take cash flow into consideration; now I just entertain myself with increasingly difficult, nervy jobs. Tell me, how will you live, function and love me with knowing this?"