"I don't want John."
Evangeline's world froze the moment the words came from her mouth. For months, the declaration hung on the tip of her tongue. Regardless the situation, she couldn't bring herself to say the fateful words. Of course, she thought them, but at the time, the four words were only lies. Yet now, all of a sudden they came tumbling out. And wonders of wonders, she actually meant them.
"What did you say?" Cristian leaned toward her. His voice with its light coating of an accent dropped to almost a whisper.
A lattice of wrought-iron separated them. A stoic guard leaned against the cement block wall behind him. An eerie silence echoed in the visiting room at Statesville Prison. Yet, Evangeline managed to block everything out and focus on the man in front of her.
"You heard me," she said, finding courage from the interested gleam in his light-colored eyes. "I'm here for you. This has nothing to do with John or Natalie. Or me wanting him back because I don't. I just want you free."
"Because you don't belong here."
"I killed a man. The law says this is the only place for me."
She scooted her chair as close as she could get to the partition and leaned in so close that the lines of iron blurred and then disappeared. "I believe in the law, but it's not without flaws. There are extenuating circumstances. After everything that's happened, you don't deserve this. Don't you want your freedom?"
"Of course," he said.
"Well, now that we've got that settledó"
"You almost died last night. I don't know why you keep fighting me on this. We're on the same team."
"I know that." His mouth tightened. A muscle flicked at his jaw. "They know you're my lawyer. What if Hessler sends his goons after you, too? Who's protecting you?"
"You don't have to worry about me."
"I can't help it. You're the only friend I have. I don't want to lose you." The tension seemed to drain from his face. He gave her a crooked smile. "I won't want you to get hurt because of me."
His concern surprised her. She reared back and stared. This wasn't supposed to be about her. His life was at stake. Not hers. How did the tables get turned? And why did it please her that he cared?
"I'm sorry about questioning your motives," he said. "You've been straight with me. I appreciate that."
"For this to work, we have to trust each other."
"I do. I trust you."
"But it has to work both ways," he said. "Don't take your safety lightly. Promise me you'll get someone to watch your back."
Cristian thought about Evangeline Williamson long after she left. The woman had steel cajones. He couldn't deny that. Nor could he deny the way he felt drawn to her. Declarations of his love for Natalie was only a buffer. A way for him to erect another wall between him and the beautiful attorney. The truth was that his love for Natalie wasn't as strong as it used to be.
He kept remembering the doubt in his wife's eyes. The confusion tore at him. Even if he didn't recognize himself, she should have. If no one else fought for him, she should have been on the front lines. But where was she?
In John McBain's bed. Instead of fighting for Cristian, her husband, she got down and dirty to sully herself with the detective. That bastard didn't care for anyone. Evangeline was lucky to get out when she did.
An involuntary smile came to his lips. Her name suited her. Just when he thought it was all over. She came in like an angel, determined to champion his cause. She was almost too good to be true.