Evangeline Williamson rushed from the police plaza as if the hounds of hell were on her heels. Tears threatened to blind her hasty getaway. Her throat ached from the effort of holding the sobs at bay. She pressed a hand to her chest to ease the sudden hollow sensation that overtook her.
Telling John McBain goodbye had been the hardest thing she had to face since her father's death. Then, she had relied on her family to see her through the sorrow of his passing. This time around, she knew she'd have to face the heartbreak alone. Nora, her only true friend in Llanview, was knee deep in her own problems. Evangeline couldn't see herself dumping on her. John's younger brother, Michael, was also a good friend, but after witnessing his interchange with Natalie at the hospital, Evangeline couldn't bring herself to confide in him. Besides, seeing him again would only remind her of her failed relationship with John.
Her escape lost steam at Angel Square. She fell onto a bench as the single word tortured her. The one time she gave someone her love and it backfired on her. She trusted John. How could he not understand how deep that went? This wasn't his first relationship. He had to know what the implication of those three words meant to a woman. But not just any woman. To her! Dammit, she gave him everything he asked for and more. Why was it so hard for him to return the favor?
Because he doesn't love you.
The silent voice screamed the words she had never wanted to face. Sobs rose from low in her belly and overtook her. Wrapping her arms around herself, she surrendered and cried.
* * *
Kevin Buchanan came to the harsh truth by accident. He rarely examined himself or his motives. The ends justified the means and all that jazz. But his grandfather's recent disappearance caused him to rethink everything that happened over the past year.
Things had never been right with Kelly. Maybe some of it came from her background. Cramer women were notorious for wrecking havoc on their men's lives. Or maybe there was always the underlying guilt that she had been his younger brother's wife. That alone should have stopped him from taking things further.
But he hadn't listened to that little voice in the back of his head. The warning had been loud and clear. He simply chose to ignore it.
Things changed, though. Asa played tit for tat and fled. The old man had a reckless streak a mile long. While Kevin admired him, he could no longer emulate him. So, he called things off with Kelly. Her stunned expression almost made him change his mind.
Then, that little voice warned him and he heeded its cry.
The walk through Angel Square was supposed to clear his head. This time of day, the area was quiet. His need for solitude had to be fed. Soon, his mother and the rest of the family would wonder what happened with Kelly. He had to be ready when that time came.
Heels clicked along the cobblestone. The person moved at a frantic, agitated pace. He stood still behind the angel statue, trapped. A strong sensation of sadness and disappointment swept over him. He considered remaining hidden, but again that voice nagged him and egged him out into the open.
She sat huddled over. Dark, glossy hair hid her face, but he easily recognized her. Evangeline Williamson. Dear God, what happened?
He moved slowly, not wanting to startle her. Stopping a foot from her, he cleared his throat. "We have to stop meeting like this."
She sat up quickly. Her hands moved to dry her face and smooth her hair. "What?"
"Nothing," he murmured. "Bad joke. Are you okay?" Upon her stricken look, he added, "Forget I said that. What can I do?"
Her dark, wary eyes flashed. She bristled. "I don't want anything."
"I know," he said quietly. "You're a tough girl. You don't need anyone."
"Is that what you think?" Her hands balled into fists in her lap. She looked ready to pounce.
"I'm saying everything wrong tonight. Can we start over?"
"I wish I could," she said. She straightened her back and looked toward the angel statue. "I remember coming here with you at Christmas. I should have listened to my heart then. Six months...wasted."
Her voice shook at the end. He joined her on the bench without waiting for an invitation. Wanting to touch her but knowing better, he draped his arm along the back. "It's none of my business and I won't be surprise when you tell me so, but does this have anything to do with my sister and her misguided affection for your boyfriendó"
"He's not my boyfriend," Evangeline announced. She glanced at her watch. "As of forty-five minutes and thirty seconds ago. Wait, make that thirty-one seconds."
His mouth tightened. "Natalie strikes again."
"Please, don't say her name. If I hear it again, I may lose my lunch." She leaned back against the bench and pressed her hand to her throat. In a tiny whisper, she said, "I may lose it anyway. I'm not good at this. I'm sorry, Kevin. I'm not at my best right now."
"You're fine," he said. Taking a chance, he placed his hand on her shoulder. "For what it's worth, I'm sorry. You looked happy with him."
She bit her bottom lip and said in a choked voice, "Looks are deceiving."
Sudden tears overtook her. On instinct, he pulled her roughly into his arms and held her as she cried.