Chapter 3

Evangeline took two aspirin to ease the pain from the bump on her head. After a quick shower and a change to her favorite champagne colored silk pajamas, she climbed onto her easy chair and got down to business. The new information about David Vickers and his connection to John was too juicy to ignore. Spencer Truman came in a serious smooth talker, but evil lurked below the surface. Cristian warned her about threatening to expose Spencer. Now that she knew that his brother murdered John's dad, she couldn't ignore Cristian's advice. David's dislike of his brother was common knowledge. Maybe he had good reason.

With the storm continuing to rage outside and the strength of the power lines iffy, Evangeline appreciated her laptop's wireless capabilities. She set aside her research on Spencer to focus on David. The key to Todd's freedom lay somewhere between the two men. If she dug hard enough, she'd find it. She hoped that time was on her side.

Her fingertips flew over the keyboard as she checked and cross-checked David's past. The Internet revealed so much about the teenage gunman slash con man slash magazine editor. His life read like a Jackie Collins novel. He went from rags to riches. It was almost like something drove him on a path that he couldn't control. After awhile, Evangeline couldn't decide whether to sympathize for him or admire him.

As she saved the most interesting exploits, she noticed the digital clock in the bottom right corner of her laptop's screen. Time had flown by. She half expected Cristian to call her hours ago. For some reason, he decided she needed a protector and designated himself in the role.

Come on, girl, you know that's not it.

"He's obviously into you."

Todd's voice flew into her head and his thoughts on her relationship with Cristian pushed everything else out.

"This is crazy," she mumbled under her breath.

Cristian wanted to take care of someone. Evangeline saved him from a life behind bars. Of course, he felt obligated. Maybe he had a little crush on her. It wouldn't be the first time a client mistook gratitude for affection. But it would definitely be a first for her to return some interest.

"Get it into perspective."

God blessed her with an analytical brain. All she had to do was think about this thing with Cristian in a logical way. Yes, he's attractive, talented and possessed a good heart. He didn't deny or close himself off to his emotions. After John, that trait was very welcomed.

"Whoa! What the hell am I doing? I can't compare Cristian to John."

She placed the laptop on the floor and stood. Her bare feet created a slight path on the carpet as she paced the floor. She had no business comparing her former lover with a good friend. The two men were complete opposites as were her relationships with both men.

"Worlds apart. And what happened before won't happen again."

A loud knock on her door roused her from her thoughts. Bellowing followed with heavy pounding.

"Evangeline! Are you there?"

Cristian's shouts were enough to wake the dead. She hurried to the door and flung it open before her neighbors called security. "I'm here."

"Thank God," he murmured before pulling her into his arms.

Heavy rains had drenched him from head to toe, but Evangeline only felt his powerful body heat engulfing her. She returned his embrace. Whether she wanted to admit it or not, she was so glad to see him and know that he survived the violent winds and continual downpour.

Seconds passed before he released her. "What am I doing? I'm soaking wet." He brushed the rain from her cheeks. "I got it all over you."

"It's okay." She stepped aside to let him in. "I have towels. Come in."

While he closed the door, she grabbed towels from the bathroom. She handed him one and dried her face and hands with the other. "What happened? Did you find them?"

"Yeah, they were buried under the rubble. An ambulance came and took them to the ER."

She frowned. "I'm surprised you didn't go with them."

"Michael was with them." He shrugged. "I wanted to make sure you got home safely."

"I'm fine. I told you that."

"I know what you told me." He reached out and cupped the back of her head. "The lump's still there. I bet no one's looked at it."

"You did," she said with a smile.

"I'm not a doctor." His fingers stroked the bump. "How does it feel?"

Her heart raced with every caress. How did he think that felt? Damn good, of course!

Maybe too good. She moved away from his touch. "It feels like a bump. I took two aspirin. I'll be fine. What condition were John and Natalie?"

"They were hurt. The stained glass windows exploded and went everywhere."

"Tell me how bad it is. Don't sugarcoat it, Cris."

"I won't," he said. "Natalie has a few cuts on her face. A piece of glass was stuck in her leg. John tried to pull it out and he cut his hand in the process. They won't know how bad the damage is until they've had full examinations." As he watched her closely, he quietly added, "I guess you want to go to him."

"What gave you that idea?"

"The look on your face," Cristian said in a strained voice. "You're still in love with him, aren't you?"

- - -

"You have to let me through!" Kevin stared down the police officer, who blocked entry to the street.

"I'm sorry, sir, but only emergency vehicles are allowed in."

"This is an emergency! My son could be there and my fiancée. I have to know if they're okay!"

"Kevin, wait." Layla grabbed his arm.

He tried to shake her loose, but the young woman had a strong grip. Patience had never been a trait he possessed. He hated waiting and especially not knowing...

"I can't, Layla," he said.

"You don't have a choice, sir," the officer said. "I can't allow anyone inside. The road is a mess. There are downed power lines and falling trees. You and your friend must stay here for your own protection. I'll radio down to see if your son and fiancée are okay. Give me their names."

"Kelly Cramer and Duke Buchanan," Kevin said. "They were either in the church or in the building across the street."

"Rescue teams have been searching in both."

"See," Layla said softly as she squeezed his arm. "Maybe they've been found."

The officer turned away as he called in. Kevin stared passed him at the aftermath of the storm. This was not the Llanview he knew. The tornado left a sea of destruction in its wake. How could anyone survive? The church was only a shadow of its former majestic structure. The buildings all around it were piles of rubble. A sudden sickening sensation hit him in the gut. He tried to close his mind to the sad possibilities, but he couldn't. Bile rose in his throat. His throat worked hard to swallow the bitter taste back down.


"It doesn't look good," he said in a hoarse voice. "I just have this feeling... It's just a very bad feeling."

"You can't think that way," Layla said. "You have to think positive. We have to pray."

"Pray?" he asked. "I'm not sure if I remember how."

She took his hand and patiently refreshed his memory.

Chapter 4