"Have there been any leads on the Killing Club case?" Michael stopped short and glared at his brother. "What the hell is wrong with you? You look like shit."
"Don't start, Mikey." John lurched from his desk to find solace in his coffee machine. He poured the thick brew into his Eagles mug. He took a big gulp. The coffee tasted like sludge, but he didn't care. Nothing mattered right now.
"Are you sick?"
As usual, his younger brother ignored his warning. Michael reached out to touch John's forehead. John jerked back. Coffee spilled everywhere.
"See what you made me do!" John's shout shook the windows.
Michael moved into action. He shoved napkins into John's hands and worked to dry him off. "At least it wasn't fresh. You could have been badly burned."
"No thanks to you."
"Now, wait a minute—"
The door burst open. Flaming red hair framed an ashen face. Her blue eyes rounded like saucers and John realized that Natalie was the last person he wanted to see. Ever.
Hurt flickered across her face. She opened her mouth to speak, but no words came. Her hesitation gave John enough time to storm across the room and close the door in her face. At the last second, he resisted the urge to slam it.
"What's going on, John?"
"Do you want to be next?" he quipped. Coming in to work had been a mistake. Staying at home only reminded him of who wasn't there. Shit! How had his life gotten this screwed up?
"I want answers." Michael pointed at John's wet shirt. "You'd better take that off before you get sick. Do you still keep a change of clothes here?"
"There's something in my bottom drawer." He ran a hand through his hair and moved to the window. Sunlight beamed through and mocked him. Hell, everything mocked him. Even chirping birds.
Michael thrust a wrinkled shirt at him. While John dressed, Michael perched at the edge of his desk and picked up the framed photo of John and Evangeline. "I bet my stethoscope your mood has something to do with her. Will you tell me what happened or should I guess?"
"Give it your best shot." He turned to face the window because he was unwilling to face the truth in his brother's eyes.
"You two broke up—"
"She broke up with me."
"Because of Natalie."
He folded his arms across his chest. Across the street, children played in the park. Their peels of joy pierced his heart. He was almost that carefree with Evangeline. But she was gone.
"It was Natalie." Michael cursed under his breath. "Dammit, John, I warned you. Why didn't you listen to me?"
"It wouldn't have mattered." John turned from the window. Avoiding his brother's watchful gaze, he sat and shuffled papers on his desk. "I take it you haven't seen her."
"Not the last couple of days. If I had known... She loves you. You know that, right?"
"Yeah, I know."
"Damn you, John. How can you be so cold? Evangeline is a good woman."
"And she deserves someone who will give her what I can't."
"No," Michael bit out. "What you won't."
The shock in Evangeline's eyes when he entered her office didn't surprise Kevin. After crying in his arms and allowing him to take her home, she quickly pushed him out the door. The prompt resetting of boundaries didn't offend. The tough girl with the marshmallow heart intrigued him.
"Hi." She quickly recovered with a bright smile. "Come in."
He handed her a box of pastries and a cup of coffee he bought at the coffeehouse at the end of the block.
"Thanks," she said. "You shouldn't have."
"Croissants should never be eaten alone. Have you had breakfast?"
A shadow crossed her face. She turned away. "No. I hadn't thought about it."
"I thought so," he said. "It's easy to forget about food when you're dealing..."
She gave him a sharp look. "Kevin, I wasn't in a good place the other night and while I appreciate everything, now is not a good time for...for..."
"Is friendship off limits?" he asked. He stared down into her chocolate brown eyes. Damn, she was so beautiful. He'd always noticed but circumstances dictated that he kept his distance. He didn't want to do that anymore.
"If that's all it is."
"I don't want to be the rebound guy," he said, honestly. "I won't lie to you either. I'm interested, Evangeline, very interested. But I know that you don't need that right now. So, yeah. Until you're ready, friendship is all this is."
A sudden smile curved her full, sensuous mouth. The way her eyes lit up made his knees weak. He landed on the chair to keep from falling flat on his ass.
"Make yourself at home!" she said with a laugh.
"I don't mind if I do. Eat up."
She reached into the box and pulled out a flaky roll. "Where's your coffee?"
"I only have two hands."
A wicked gleam burned a hold straight through him as she said, "That's good to know."
They spent the next few minutes making small talk and eating. Neither of them mentioned John or anything about the pain of heartbreak. Kevin relaxed and enjoyed every second of their impromptu date.
When she took a call, he sat back and admired her office. He hadn't been there since she represented Asa at the mental competency hearing. Evangeline Williamson exuded style and class. And the way she frowned as she concentrated on her phone conversation was adorable. John McBain was a fool to let her get away.
She hung up the phone and immediately apologized.
"Don't worry. It sounded important."
"You tell me. One of your reporters at the Banner wants to interview me."
He grinned. "Oh, yeah."
"Oh, yeah! As if you didn't know."
"The Woman of the Year. How could I forget? Do you have an escort?"
Uncertainty flickered across her face. She looked away for a moment. When her gaze locked with his again, she said, "Friends, right?"
"Yeah." He smiled and nodded. "Well?"