SEEKING US by chocolate470
Summary:

 

Sometimes you are forever searching not realizing that the answer was always there - in front of you all along.

 

All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.    


Categories: Daytime Television Characters: Evangeline Williamson
Classification: Off Cannon
Genre: Drama
Story Status: Active
Pairings: None
Warnings: Un-betaed , Work in Progress
Challenges: None
Series: None
Chapters: 11 Completed: Yes Word count: 22697 Read: 11018 Published: September 03 2019 Updated: July 07 2021

1. Chapter 1 by chocolate470

2. Chapter 2 by chocolate470

3. Chapter 3 by chocolate470

4. Chapter 4 by chocolate470

5. Chapter 5 by chocolate470

6. Chapter 6 by chocolate470

7. Chapter 7 by chocolate470

8. Chapter 8 by chocolate470

9. Chapter 9 by chocolate470

10. Chapter 10 by chocolate470

11. Chapter 11 by chocolate470

Chapter 1 by chocolate470

For most of Llanview's residents, it was the beginning of just another ordinary fall day. The sun shone bright overhead and a brisk cool breeze circulated throughout the ideal suburb. A colorful array of golds, greens, reds, and yellows decorated the tree's foliage while also creating an artful display beneath. The chill in the air made it necessary to grab a light jacket when venturing out and they were many doing just that. The shopping centers, boutiques, and cafes were abuzz with activity. For a remaining few, however, it proved time for a melancholy farewell.

"I can't believe Llanview won't be your home anymore," Nora commented mournfully. She hugged her friend and long-time colleague. The reality of a new normal finally setting in. "I can't believe you will be so far away." There were many times she leaned heavily on Evangeline but now no more.

Evangeline replied, "We can still keep in touch."

"Please," Nora snorted and grabbed her shoulders. "Evangeline you are an employee of Shuster and Lewis. The most prestigious law firm in the state of Washington. I doubt you'll even have time for yourself."

Evangeline took her comment to heart. "I promise to make time for myself and my friends."

"You'd better." Nora gazed at Evangeline with a known expression and held her hands tightly. "Stay in Llanview. Come and work with the prosecutor's office again. We'll give you whatever you want and need. Tell Shuster and Lewis to kick rocks."

"Kick rocks...Nora." The two friends giggled. "You're making this way too hard."

"Sorry for being utterly selfish." Nora wrapped a grey scarf around her neck then lifted her purse upon her right shoulder. Lunch had been palatable but somber. Her favorite grilled chicken sandwich and ice tea tasted indifferent. She was already late for a scheduled appointment although it didn't seem to matter at all. One last hug, a resigned look, and smile - Nora was gone.

Evangeline brushed a couple of tears from her eyes. Her brave stance was quickly faltering. These goodbyes were never easy.

 

Now back at her apartment, Evangeline took a quick tour of the empty rooms - bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, living room. She, Layla and their cousin Elise did a pretty good job of cleaning, taking various pictures along the way. The inspection went well. Some final paperwork and handing over her keys remained. The bare walls stood idle, devoid of the many memories. She decided to take some things with her while others were locked away in storage. Evangeline exhaled. The one-bedroom sure didn't feel like hers anymore. Time and familiarity made it her place of refuge. She would choose to leave the secrets, doubts, and fears behind. She would leave friends and foes alike who either blessed her with a kind word or imparted a dire warning. The hallway mirror beckoned her. One last critique - leather jacket over green sweater dress; hair styled in a loose bun. She didn't have time for makeup except for an appropriate lip gloss. Her eyes fell on the keys that she cradled between her fingers. She shifted them around and around then pressed her lips together, "Its time."

 

"If Victor Lord Jr. thinks he can block my getting in contact with him then he better think again," Evangeline grumbled angrily pushing the elevator button hard. It was a wonder that he didn't have security blocking her entering the building. She folded her arms, leaning against the elevator's sidewall. Yeah, she understood his reaction. Todd or Victor the personality stayed stubborn.

 

Once the elevator doors sprung open Tina, Victor's long-time personal assistant, focused directly at her without blinking behind her trendy eyewear. The time on the clock reminded her that there was only so much time remaining. Tina quickly stood as Evangeline advanced towards her desk. Tina's light green eyes surveyed her from head to toe. She never really understood the relationship between her boss and the beautiful lawyer. From the outside looking in, there was nothing odder. Anyone could see that their personalities were vastly different. It didn't phase them the least. At times she speculated that at a different time and place, theirs maybe something more but that was neither here nor there. At the moment she knew Evangeline was leaving Llanview behind and Victor was pretty ticked off.

Evangeline prepared herself for battle but soon found none forthcoming.

"I was waiting for you to come," Tina remarked matter-of-factly.

That comment caught Evangeline off guard. She stood with her mouth slightly ajar, unsure of what to say next.

"He's in his office brooding," Tina remarked with a smirk. "He'll talk to you regardless."

Evangeline removed her jacket and set it down on one of the side chairs.

"Evangeline just go away!" He heard the door click open and inhaled her familiar Chanel scent. "I believe I won't have an assistant tomorrow!"

"I think you will!" Tina retorted calling his bluff before shutting the door behind her.

Naturally, he refused to turn around. The view of Llanview's superb skyline preoccupied his attention. She saw that he wore a blue dress shirt, dark jeans, and suede shoes. His hands pushed into his jean pockets.

"So are we going to say goodbye like this?" She asked as she approached him.

"Goodbye!"

The finality and the coldness in that one word wouldn't deter her. She wouldn't play this back and forth game. "I can see why you chose this office space." She strolled up next to him. All he had to do was pull back the vertical blinds for this exquisite view.

He turned his head slightly and said, "Say what you have to say, then go."

Evangeline was horrified to see his unshaven face, unkempt hair, and bloodshot eyes. "Victor..."

"Well, at least I took a shower and brushed my teeth if you were wondering."

"I know that." There was no mistaking the smell of a man who hadn't. She put her palm to his forehead then his cheek. He saw it as a sweet gesture but misguided.

"Were you drinking?"

"No...I was just up all night. I'm heartsick Evangeline," he unashamedly confessed. "My best friend is leaving and I can't and won't beg her to stay even though I want to so badly." Evangeline couldn't pull her eyes away from his. Those intense blue eyes radiated a plethora of emotion at any given moment. "You waited for the perfect opportunity, didn't you?"

She wouldn't have left without his life having a real sense of stability. When he discovered his true identity, it threw his life into another round of turmoil. Leaving him then became the last option for her.

Her eyes retreated. "I just need a break from Llanview."

"A break from all the major and minor characters affecting your life daily."

"There's only so much you could have done, Victor. I need to do this for myself - for my sanity. I have to rediscover that passion that I once had for my career. I've lost something along the way."

"You care too much."

"Do I?"

He finally pulled her into an embrace. "I'm going to miss you. Don't you dare forget about me."

"How can I?" She placed a chaste kiss on his lips and embraced him again. "This isn't goodbye for  us." She lost her train of thought and quickly ran out of the room. He didn't stop or chase after her. The best thing was to let her go. He cared for her too much not to do so.

 

Victor plopped down into his chair and sighed heavily. This day wouldn't get any easier. At least he was writing his first novel to preoccupy his thoughts.

Chapter 2 by chocolate470

Settling comfortably into her new highrise apartment wasn't an option at the moment. Opened and unopened boxes lay scattered around the various rooms. The disorganized closet was another story on its own but dwelling on such negatives did her no good. She had to get dressed and prepared for work around 7 am the next day.

From the shoulders down to her feet, the look included a pink silk blouse, black blazer, pencil skirt, and black leather pumps. A YSL black tote and Dior bracelet watch complimented the outfit. Then add in the subtle makeup with hair styled in a low ponytail the impression was now complete.

"Looking good Evangeline." She winked at herself in the hallway mirror.

 

Upon arrival, she strolled confidently past the huge glass doors of the S & L building. Soon her gaze focused on a slender middle-aged woman with a stern expression on her face standing stoically in the lobby. She wore a navy blue pinto dress with a matching blazer. Her lustrous salt and pepper hair styled into a tight bun.

"Welcome to Shuster and Lewis Ms. Williamson," she expressed while extending her hand in greeting. "I'm Mary Allen, Legal Administrator for the firm."

"Nice to meet you, Ms. Allen."

"Being that this is your first day, I'll be introducing you to Mr. Thomas Myers, he is one of the firm's partners and your immediate supervisor. Your office has already been set up along with your phone number, Rolodex, and email account. Later on, an orientation will introduce your associates, put perspective on the inner workings of the firm, and its billing hours. Do you have any questions so far?"

"None so far."

"Well then let's move along. Mr. Myers is waiting in the conference room. Sometimes I'm not sure if time is his enemy or friend." It was the first time Evangeline saw a genuine smile on her face.

 

A sun-tanned Tony Goldwyn modeling one of his famous Brooks Brothers suits became the first thought that sprung into Evangeline's mind when introduced to Mr. Thomas Edison Myers Esq. The resemblance was uncanny.

"Ms. Williamson, great meeting you in person." The handshake was firm, the voice ultra-suave, and the smile infectious.

"Likewise, Mr. Myers."

"Ms. Allen I'll take over from here since I have some time on my hands before the big meeting."

Ms. Allen gave a quick nod in agreement with the new arrangement. "It has been a pleasure, Ms. Williamson," she stated. "Whenever you need any further assistance, don't hesitate to call on me."

"I certainly will."

 

After Ms. Allen exited, Evangeline took a calming breath.

"Mary is one of our most indispensable employees. She has worked at the firm for the past twenty years. She knows a great deal about our history and what it takes to succeed

in this environment. This firm has built up prominence through decades of hard work and due diligence."

"Indeed, its reputation is well known. The firm was founded in 1910 by Edward Shuster and Norman Lewis, two recent Harvard Law School grads. It made perfect sense at the time. Their families were well known in the Washington area and had close ties for many years. Both young men were attracted to the legal field and decided to pursue degrees in criminal law at the university. In fact, in 1915, Norman married Edward's sister Emily. Shuster and Lewis prided themselves on providing the best representation by having the needs of its clients as the main focus. After all, they are the people keeping the firm in business."

"Well done." He smiled. He retrieved a manila folder from the conference table and glanced through its contents. "Your impeccable reputation proceeds you, Ms. Williamson."

"I say reputation can only get you so far. It's the results in the courtroom that count in the long run.""Precisely. As long as you stick to that motto, you should fit in perfectly here. Ms. Williamson, please take a seat. The other members of our team will arrive shortly."

While taking her seat, she inquired, "Mr. Myers, may I ask you a rather personal question?"

"I think I already know what it is. Did it bother me at first? Sure especially when Scandal took off but a lawyer can always use a potentially embarrassing coincidence to his or her advantage. It has been great for my bottom line."

And hard on the wife whomever she may be, Evangeline thought, smiling to herself.

Soon the doors opened and one lady and three gentlemen strolled in. They introduced themselves as - Molly Akord, James Bishop, Ethan McClaren, and Kent Ford. All greeted her.

 

"So you are the N.K.O.T.B," Molly commented rather blase, moving a strand of hair behind her ear. Her colleagues looked at her quizzically.

"What did you just say?" Evangeline asked very seriously.

"Ah nothing," Molly said. "Just trying to add a little humor before any serious conversation commences."

"Well the rest of us don't see the humor so quit while you are ahead," Thomas scolded.

Evangeline appreciated Thomas' reprimand even if Molly's cheeks turned red from embarrassment. Navigating a new environment didn't mean that you wouldn't come across the same irksome human behavior.

 

 

Two Months Later

Victor always looked forward to the weekends. He made sure to clear his schedule because Sam was coming over. His son Sam -the little boy with sandy blonde hair and crystal clear blue eyes. One of the few remaining bright spots in his life. Blair having full custody of Sam not only devastated him, but it also put everything else into perspective. The life he knew, the business and the family were all gone. He struggled to forget and not want to reclaim that identity. The fatherly connection with Starr and Jack was another casualty in the reshuffle. Their random meetings these days were too short and awkward. Words were left unsaid. It proved best to move on. Although those moments spent together were not easily forgotten. He wondered if they thought about themas much as he did. Imagine his surprise when Jack showed up with little Sam at Angel Square for the drop-off.

 

"Daddy, daddy!" Sam exclaimed running straight into this father's arms.

"There's my boy. I'm so happy to see you too, buddy. Man, you are getting heavier. Soon I won't be able to carry you."

"Mom says I'm a big boy."

"And that you are." Victor gave him a kiss on the cheek. "Hey, I've got big plans for my big boy this weekend. Are you ready?"

"Yeah!"

 

It didn't take long before Victor noticed Jack lingering, rocking back and forth on his heels in the foreground.

"It's great seeing you, Jack. How is everything?"

"It's okay." He replied lackadaisically. Afterward, there was an awkward silence. He hated it. Things shouldn't be this way.

"Is there something else?"

"Victor, can we talk?"

"Sure. Sam, go and play on the slide while Jack and daddy talk."

"Okay," Sam replied as he scampered off. Angel Square park was full of parents and kids playing.  

"What do you want to talk about?"

"Why don't you fight for custody of Sam again?"

That threw Victor for a loop. "Now is not the right time."

"When is it ever the right time? You can't keep dragging your feet!"

"Jack back off!" Sam's gleeful sound in the distance was in stark contrast to their intense conversation. Victor briefly glanced over at Sam. He was happily climbing up the slide with a little girl directly in tow. "What's going on? I don't get it. Do you have something against Sam? I didn't expect that our conversation would be about this."

Jack took a moment to collect himself. " I don't have anything against Sam. He's a great kid born into a screwed up situation. I hate this. I hate this situation," said Jack running his fingers through his hair and turning from side to side. "Mom acts like everything is normal. When have our lives ever been normal? She expects me to build a relationship with Todd. I don't want to. Todd has disappeared for most of my life. I know you. You are my dad, not this impostor." Tears started falling down his cheeks.

"Come here," Victor implored, pulling him into an embrace. "Whenever you need to talk, I'm available. I'll never shut you and Starr out of my life. Both of you are forever a part of me. Do you believe me?"

"Yes...yes I do dad."

Then it suddenly hit him. He hadn't heard the word dad from Jack for a long time. It affected him. A dam was starting to break. Those concrete walls blocked him off from the only life he knew. Jack pushed through another ray of sunshine. There was no holding back his tears.

 

 

"So you're telling me that Jack will be spending time with you as well?"

 

Victor leaned back and rolled his eyes. "Evangeline, don't sound so supportive."

 

"You gave me this information for a reason. I'm just going to lay down a couple of facts."

 

"Okay, Williamson Esq."

 

They usually chatted during the week whenever possible. Often it was pretty late at night. Evangeline was fast becoming a rising star within the firm. Soon these conversations would become few and far in-between. He certainly wasn't looking forward to that at all.

 

"Jack is going to lean on you more and more instead of going to his parents. Blair and Todd will believe you are doing this unpurpose."

 

"I don't care what they think Jack needs me and I won't turn my back on him. If you could have seen him, Vange, with all the sadness and rage rolled into one. The kid is hurting pretty bad. He's a confused teenager. He needs an outlet for those emotions."

 

"I get it, Victor, but prepare for the storm that's about to come your way. Whatever uneasy truce there was between you guys, consider it null and void."

 

"If it comes to that, so be it."

 

"Okay...just saying."

 

An idea came to him.

 

"Evangeline, let's change the subject before we bid each other adieu."

 

"Okay shoot."

 

"I have a question to ask. Will Llanview see you for Christmas?"

 

"Humph...I'm not sure. I do know that I'll only have a couple of days off and I sure don't want to deal with the nightmarish holiday commute."

 

"Will my private jet suffice? I'm extending an invitation to spend Christmas with Sam and me."

 

"Victor..." The invitation touched her deeply but she wasn't thinking about flying out to Llanview for Christmas. Layla planned on vacationing in Cancun while her mother was away in Europe for an extended stay.

 

"Don't you dare say no or come up with arguments against this perfectly great idea."

 

"Or else what Victor Lord Jr.?" Evangeline challenged.

 

"I can think of a couple of embarrassing things. Humph..." Victor tapped his cheek with his index finger. "Let me see...I can call your boss..."

 

"Okay, I accept." Evangeline knew he would do it too. "Sometimes I don't like you."

 

"I'm doing this for you."

 

"Mmm-hmmm."

 

"Evangeline sometimes I think you don't like yourself. You need to take a break from the hustle. Consider this as my gift to you. All you need to do is show up, relax, and enjoy yourself."

 

Soon a thought sprang into her brain. "Victor, I've been your friend for many years and have never been offered a ride on your private jet. Humph, why is that?"

 

"Well..." Victor thought about it but didn't have a valid reason.

 

"Cat got your tongue, Mr. Lord. Since you're offering, I'll certainly take full advantage of it. All the amenities better be available."

 

"Yes, ma'am." Victor chuckled. "It's always nice catching up with the Superstar Williamson."

 

"Shut Up," replied Evangeline playfully.

 

"I miss you still."

 

"Me too...I can't wait to see you and little Sam."

Chapter 3 by chocolate470

Flashback

Victor had just finished up another night at the office. He was slowly making his way through the well-lit parking lot with Paul his driver/bodyguard when suddenly a woman raced up to him frantically crying and trembling. She appeared to be in her mid-30s, curly brunette hair disheveled and light brown eyes filled with tears. Blood was noticeably oozing from a visible cut on her lower lip. Her beautiful red blouse ripped around the collar.

"You gotta help me!" She kept repeating over and over again. The words came out through rasping breaths. She clutched tightly unto his arms and wouldn't let go.

Victor tried to calm her, but her entire body shook violently. He thought he knew her from somewhere.

"Paulie call 9-1-1."

"Already on it."

"What's your name? What's happened to you?"

"I..." Her eyes rolled back. Immediately she went limp in his arms.

Victor patted her cheeks. "Hey...Hey!"

 

Llanview Hospital

Victor ran through the hospital's corridor into the emergency section and ran up to the nurses' station.

"Nurse...Nurse." He tapped hard on the desk.

"What is it, Mr. Lord."

"I'm trying to find out some information about a young woman who was just brought in by ambulance."

"Victor, she is under Dr. Bell's care. The team is doing its best to stabilize her. Do you know her name or have any other information about her?"

"No, I just met her. She was yelling for help then fainted in my arms soon after."

"I need to find out her insurance information, or we will need to move her to another hospital."

Victor knew the drill. Insurance meant quality care.

"I will take care of all her expenses. Have her moved to a private room once she's stabilized."

"Yes, Mr. Lord."

There was nothing more he could do except either wait or check back in the morning.

"Could you please give me a call once she's able to see anyone."

"Certainly."

 

The next morning Victor arrived with a vase filled with fresh flowers. He found her awake and noted that she had bandaging around her head. There was small bruising visible along her face and exposed arms. He thought she must have endured a horrifying experience but was happy to see her recovering nicely. He set down the vase on the bedside cabinet.

"Good morning."

She cleared her throat. "G-good morning. Thanks for saving me last night."

"I was glad I was there to assist. Do you have any memory of last night? Were you attacked? Did you get into a fight?"

"I'm not sure." She squeezed her eyes shut then reopened them. "My brain is still foggy. I believe my purse was either stolen. Did I leave it somewhere."

"Don't worry about it right now. Thank God you're safe and alive. The doctor didn't find any internal injuries. You'll be good as new in no time."

She shook her head gratefully then said, "I know you."

"I'm not sure if that's a good or bad thing." She grimaced when she tried to smile. "Take it easy. Good as new doesn't mean today."

"Now and then I see you around the Banner. I work for your sister Victoria Lord."

Victor eased into the chair next to the bed. "It's a small world after all," he laughed. "What's your name?"

"Lynn Hitchcock."

"Hello Lynn. Well, of course, you already know mine."

Thus the conversation continued, and a quasi-friendship was born.

 

 

When Victor stepped into his sister's office, he didn't expect to see Viki, Jessica and Lynn gathered around her desk. They were engrossed in an intense conversation until they noticed his presence.

Victor stretched out his arms. "What is this? A check up on how Victor is doing meeting?"

"Of course not. That would include a long dinner," Jessica quipped.

"Ha, ha." He hugged Jessica. The two's relationship remained close. "So why did you need to see me so urgently Viki unless..." He spied the legal pads spread out on the desk. "I hope this isn't one of your planning sessions for another charity event."

Vicki folded her arms. "And what if it is?"

Victor let out an exasperated sigh. "Vicki, I'm not interested in being kidnapped, arrested or shot at...at least not this year. Llanview has enough events going on in December to entertain the populace. Put a pen to your checkbook and write out a nice rounded figure. The hospital will be much appreciative."

"Victor, you are a part of the board."

"And so is Todd and I don't see him anywhere."

"The both of you in a room at the same time will not exactly work out."

Victor smirked. "I have plans, Viki. I can't get bogged down in these strategy meetings. Invite me to dinner, and I'll be there. We can chat for an hour and go on about our business. When it comes to this, I prefer to write a check. ...Hey Hitch, want to join me for lunch?"

"Viki, is it okay to go on my break now?"

"Of course, it's okay. Come on Hitch let's go." Lynn acquiesced after getting a quick nod from Vicki. Victor placed his arm around her shoulder. "I know this nice Greek restaurant where we can get the best Souvlaki."

"Souvlaki? I'm not sure if Greek is my thing."

"Don't knock it until you've tried it."

 

Viki shook her head as their voices trailed off.

"Mom, he seems to be doing fine. He and Lynn are getting along. I know you were a bit worried once Evangeline left."

"On the contrary, I thought it was the best thing. Those two needed some breathing space to figure stuff out."

"What do they need to figure out? Evangeline is his best and only friend. She got him through some rough moments, and he did the same for her."

"Yet sometimes you can be each other's stumbling block without even realizing it," said Vicki returning to her desk.

"Mom you're always wary of Uncle Victor. I think you need to relax and stop worrying so much. Eventually, you will wear yourself out."

And other things. Viki knew Jessica was right, but she took her role as big sister very seriously. She filled the role of matriarch of the family.

"For a family that's in the newspaper business, I'm tired of us always being part of the news."

"We've had a few months of relative calm."

"I see it as the calm before the storm," uttered Vicki in an ominous tone.

 

 

Washington 

 

"I've interviewed the wife. She insists that he was with her all night but..."

"She doesn't come across as a credible witness."

The state accused Alessandro Marino of murdering his business partner of twenty years, Pietro Baresi. The case generated headlines all over the country due to Marino and Baresi's prominent statuses within the finance industry.

They were meeting in Thomas' office going over some of the details of the case.

"I'm not sure how jurors are going to respond to her testifying. Of course, she will stand by her husband and say that he was home all night. She does have a lifestyle to maintain."

"And what about Mr. Marino?"

"You can hear the bitterness in his tone. His responses were cold, arrogant, and genuinely uncaring. Pretty convenient that the gun used in the murder was stolen out of his vehicle a few weeks ago which he failed to inform the police about."

"Ouch...there are few ways to skirt around some of these issues, but he will want to testify."

"Cross-examination is going to be a nightmare unless we convince him otherwise." Evangeline snapped her fingers. "I suggest we set up a mock trial. We can get an idea of what potential jurors will decide once we present our side of the case. Mr. Marino will understand he'll make a better witness for the prosecution." Thomas chuckled at that statement. "It's best to find out our strengths and weaknesses before it plays out before the court."

"That's an excellent idea."

The glint in his eye, however, proved that he already had that thought in mind.

"Convince him that it's worth the time and money involved. This case can't rush."

"Marino wants to get his name and the business out of the public spectacle. I'll smooth his ruffled feathers soon enough. He has already informed that the press is clamoring around his gated community. It's time for you to visit him and reassure the family that everything is under control." Evangeline nodded.

 

As soon as Evangeline left, Molly burst into Thomas' office.

 

"Thomas..."

"Molly...what do you think you're doing?" he asked from behind his desk.

Molly wouldn't mince words. " Why is Ms. Williamson second-chair on this case? I'm the most senior individual on the team," she protested.

Thomas calmly replied, "You shouldn't be reacting like this. Haven't you been second-chair on other of my cases? I've also chosen the others."

"Why didn't you choose one of them? It would have been preferable." She expressed through clenched teeth. Rage burned within her, the reddened face and furrowed brow displayed the outward signs. "Ms. Williamson is a newbie."

"I don't need to explain myself to you." He rose from his seat. "The case required a female second chair."

"It truly helps that Evangeline is African-American and very attractive."

Thomas pointed an index finger at her face. "Let me remind you that the partners are watching you very closely. Their tolerance can only go so far."

Those words cooled her intensity. She suddenly went quiet, and slowly sat down in one of the chairs "It's not my fault that Mira left," her voice pleaded. "She said she found a better opportunity elsewhere."

"It doesn't matter. My hands are tied." He placed his palms on her shoulders. "There is only so much I can do to protect you. You've got to stop behaving hysterically or kiss your career at Shuster and Lewis goodbye." Molly reluctantly agreed.

End Notes:

Can someone please get in contact with Lifetime or Hallmark so that Trevor St. John and Renee Elise Goldsberry can do a movie together :)

Chapter 4 by chocolate470

"What's up with Molly?" Evangeline asked her colleagues James and Ethan while sipping on her latte.

In about twenty minutes, they were scheduled to conduct a breakfast meeting. Kent provided a valid excuse, he had a court session, but Molly neither called or sent any messages regarding her absence. Some days Molly kept up her best pretense of getting along, and other days there was no love lost between them.

"These few months, she has taken on a lot of cases," Ethan offered. "In addition to scheduling meetings with these clients."

"Or it could be that she's still uptight about Thomas choosing you to be second-chair, but that's between them and not you," concluded James bluntly.

"That decision caught me off-guard. However, I prefer to believe that Thomas is evaluating my ability to handle whatever tasks come my way and the stresses that come along with it."

"And for someone who has just recently started, I'm sold." James concurred with Ethan's assessment.

Evangeline smiled. "Thanks, guys. Still, we are all members of the same team. We must work together to succeed. Eventually, I must have a word with Thomas about this."

 

"Hey, Hey, Hey. Where is everyone taking off for the Christmas holiday?"

"Hey, Tiff."

Tiffany Thomas, the team's Administrative Assistant, popped in with a tray filled with cinnamon buns, scones, mini donuts, and crepes accompanied with bread plates and napkins.

Ethan's eyes lit up. "Tiff you are spoiling us this morning," he said instantly seizing one of the cinnamon buns.

Tiffany's bubbly personality was infectious. Few had anything negative to say about her. She interacted well with her colleagues, and her work efficiency was a bonus.

"I thought I would give the best team at S & L an exquisite feast. Thanks, everyone for the presents and no I haven't opened any as yet. Humph strangely, the ice queen isn't around as yet. I'm glad; she would have gobbled up half of the contents on this tray."

Evangeline shook her head. "Tiffany..."

"What?" Tiffany feigned ignorance. "It's true, and everyone knows it to be so. So where are you guys going?"

James replied, "My wife and I have already booked a flight to New York. We're spending time with her family."

"Well, my laptop and I will be spending quality time together," Ethan sighed. "I'm a little behind on my case files."

"Oh, poor Ethan." Tiffany sympathized, tapping his shoulder. "You can join my family and me for a proper Christmas dinner, if and when you can."

"Thanks, Tiff."

"I'm flying to Llanview, PA. My best friend was kind enough to facilitate me with his private jet." Everyone went quiet and stared at her, fascinated.

James whistled and Tiffany said, "I wish I had a friend like that. And he's just a friend?"

"Just a friend."

"Imagine no hours of standing in long queues at the airport."

"Or listening to the endless arguments about who was first in line."

"Or if you were driving having to deal with the snow and traffic jams.""Don't forget the road rage."

"May I join you?" Ethan asked.

"Unfortunately, there is only room for one. Conditions usually apply with these types of favors," replied Evangeline with a sly smile taking a bite of her crepe.

 

 

"Are you as excited as I am?"

 

"Victor, I hope you are not overdoing it as usual?"

 

"Vange, come on. I haven't seen you in a while. Why shouldn't I get a teensy bit excited about seeing you, and Sam is too."

 

"Hmm-hmm. Are you using Sam for this purpose knowing how much I adore him?"

 

"I may or may not. I plead the fifth."

 

Evangeline giggled. "So how are things going with Jack?"

 

"Good...good...ow...ow...ow!"

 

"Victor, did you hurt yourself?"

 

"My fingers got burned a little. I'm trying to cook some spaghetti."

 

Suddenly he heard a fit of laughter coming through the phone. He imagined Evangeline must have fallen off her chair in the process.

 

"Are you still there?"

 

Evangeline finally caught her breath. "Okay...okay...I'm good."

 

"My cook, Angela, gave me a few tips, and the penthouse hasn't burned down as yet okay."

 

It all sounded pretty odd to Evangeline. "Why did you need to ask Angela for cooking tips? Just order takeout like you usually do."

 

"If I can do something for myself, I will. Besides, it helps when I have Sam with me, and I can whip up a snack for him."

 

"Father knows best, indeed. I'm truly impressed. So how is that spaghetti going?"

 

"It's just about ready. By the way, I'm in the process of writing a novel."

 

Evangeline's ears perked to attention. "A novel? What is it about?"

 

"I'll tell you all about it once you get here."

 

"Victor, tonight you are just full of surprises."

 

 

Sunday evening and Victor was over at Llanfair for dinner. Full course meals took time, so he and Jessica retreated to the game room to play a round of pool. The blue-themed room featured a foosball, air hockey, and pool tables, leather chairs, and a built-in fireplace.

 

"Uncle Victor, stop saying that you are allowing me to win. You've been out of practice for a while now."

Technically, Jessica's assessment was on point. He didn't frequent the clubs or pool halls like before. Those places were Todd's arena, not his.

"Fourball corner pocket." Victor chuckled when she used to cue stick to indicate the play. "Mom is certainly pleased that you and Lynn are getting on so well."

"I'm sorry to inform you that Viki is barking up the wrong tree. Lynn is not my type. She's far from it." Jessica's cue ball bounced off the table. "I guess it's my turn."

Jessica tensed. "Mom has also invited Lynn over. It's going to be an awkward evening."

"Watching Viki attempting to play matchmaker will be fun," he smiled. "Lynn is my buddy. She's easy-going, but sometimes I think I overwhelm her. It's not like I'm looking for anyone at the moment. I'm still working on myself."

"Could have fooled me."

"What's that supposed to mean?" He questioned while chalking his cue stick. "I've been alone for long periods." "Be honest with yourself, Uncle Victor. Soon you'll want and need someone in your life."

He thought about it and then thought about it some more. "There will certainly come a day when I wake up and say I'm ready for all that. So far, no one in Llanview excites me enough into wanting a relationship."

"Then maybe she's not here, but someplace else."

"Possibly and that's all I'm saying." He smiled at her.

 

So she was finally back. The plane ride was short, yet oh so relaxing. From the comfortable seating to breakfast of french toast paired with freshly squeezed orange juice, it created a picture of dining out at a fancy eatery. All too soon the smooth ride came to an end when the pilot announced that they had arrived in Llanview.

 

"Hey, gorgeous!" Victor picked her up and spun her around.

"Nice seeing you too handsome."

They gave each other a quick smack on the lips then a prolonged embrace.

"Hmm, it's been too long."

They gazed at one another for a short while.

"It's been a hard few months not seeing you. You look amazing. I hate saying it but Washington has been good to you."

"You don't look bad yourself."

"Unlike last time," he chuckled.

"You always clean up well."

 

They happily strolled arm in arm; a short walk from the hangar to his awaiting vehicle. Evangeline's face lit up when she spied Sam standing next to Paul. He was clutching a small bouquet of white roses.

"Is that little Sam?"

"Yeah."

"Do you remember me?"

Sam vigorously shook his head. "Evangeline, you are daddy's best friend."

"That's right," Evangeline beamed. "Are those roses for me?"

"Yes."

"Hmm...they smell amazing. I hope I can get a hug from you." Instantly Sam hugged her. "You are such a cutie," she said, kissing his cheek.

"Evangeline, daddy is taking me ice skating. Are you coming too?"

Victor quickly interjected, "Sam, Evangeline wants to relax after her flight. We'll go after Paul takes her home. Okay, buddy."

"Okay."

"It's okay Victor. I'll go skating with you guys. I'm sure you can find me a pair of ice skates somewhere. By the way, purple is my favorite color."

"Evangeline, you don't need to do this," he whispered by her left ear.

"Victor, I've got the energy. Besides, I want to spend as much time with you guys as possible. Who knows when we'll get this opportunity again."

 

 

The car ride to Angel Square was quite chatty with Sam providing Evangeline updates about the life of a four-year-old - his favorite teacher, best friend, the food he enjoys and on and on. Sam's iPad laid aside. Victor barely got in a word edgewise.

"Daddy and me have already decorated the Christmas tree."

"Oh wow. I need to see it."

It appeared that Evangeline was a natural around children. Later on he would chat with her after Sam had gone to bed that is.

 

However, once they exited the car and strolled over to the Llanview Center's outdoor ice rink, Evangeline's mood turned frosty like the weather.

 

"Do you need help with that?"

Victor was lacing up Sam's skates when he noticed Evangeline hadn't done the same with hers. Her mind seemed to be someplace other than where she was now. There was this faraway look in her eyes.

"Evangeline!"

"Yeah..."

"Your skates..."

"Oh..." She stared down at them and quickly realized that her laces were still undone

"Ow Daddy, it's too tight."

"Sorry Sam. ...Where did you go just now?"

"Just got lost in my thoughts. ...Here comes trouble."

 

"Hi, mommy."

"Hey, Sam. ...Evangeline, I didn't expect to see you here in Llanview so soon. You look refreshed."

Blair wore a black, winter jacket over a grey sweater matched with blue jeans; a knitted wool cap covered a sleek hair bob style.

"And you look...the same."

"Whoa...Whoa..." Victor stepped in between them. "Evangeline, please take Sam unto the ice. I'll join you guys soon."

"Come on, Sam." Sam grasped her hand.

"Bye, mommy."

"Bye."

 

"Blair, what are you doing here?"

"Everybody comes to the center to ice skate. I just wanted to say hi to Sam. Is that such a crime? " She pushed her loose strands behind her ears.

"Then why create a scene with Evangeline right in front of Sam."

"Ms. Perfect gets under my skin, that's all. Sam is still a kid."

"He understands more than you realize."

"It's so strange that you remained such close friends with Evangeline after everything."

"Well, that's none of your business. Is there anything else?"

"I guess not."

"Blair, be happy in your life and keep out of mine."

 

When Victor joined them on the ice, he said, "Evangeline...I'm..."

She cut him off. "Let's not dwell on it.

 

Afterward, the trio enjoyed their time out on the ice laughing and playing a few games. Everyone's mood had changed for the better.

 

"Man I'm getting hungry. I can go for some turkey chili for lunch."

"And I want a Waldorf salad."

"What is it with women and salads."

Evangeline nudged his shoulder. "I can say the same thing about men and chili."

"Chili is a hearty meal while a salad is rabbit food."

"Whatever...," Evangeline grinned. "What do you want to eat Sam?"

"I want pizza!"

Chapter 5 by chocolate470

It's the most wonderful time of the year

With the kids jingle belling

And everyone telling you be of good cheer

It's the most wonderful time of the year

 

Victor captured Kodak moments throughout their time at Angel Park. The snow lightly falling created some great portraits. They went sledding down a small mound, and built a snowman in between; adorning it with gummies, lollipops, and licorice. Victor even commissioned one of the park's artists to paint a couple of scenes with the three of them enjoying their time at the park.

"Hey!" Victor had just gotten off his phone when a snowball hit him square in the face. He wasn't too sure who did it because Evangeline and Sam pretended to be otherwise engaged. "So, nobody wants to fess up, huh." He formed two good-sized snowballs. Evangeline and Sam scattered in different directions trying to outrun the snowballs coming their way.

That continued for a while until Evangeline decided to take a break. She took a seat on one of the park's benches and thought, either I'm too old for this or exhaustion was finally taking over after her flight from Washington. She still heard Victor and Sam playing not too far off in the distance.

 

Then another sound suddenly caught her attention. The voices and the laughter seemed familiar. There was no mistaking who these two were. They strolled by hand in hand, oblivious to anything or anyone else around them. Sure, she would have been a fool to believe that she wouldn't have bumped into them during her stay, but the sight of them became another reminder that Llanview represented a place of lost hope and dreams.

 

"Vange...Evangeline!"

 

"Huh..."

 

"What's wrong?" Victor sat down next to her with Sam on his lap. "I thought I lost you there for a moment."

 

She felt cold, exhausted. "I guess I'm finally feeling tired."

 

"And it is getting colder. I think it is time to go home. We had a lot of fun today; right, Sam."

 

"Yeah, dad. Did you have fun, Evangeline?"

 

"Yes, I had a great time," she said and fashioned a smile.

 

"You know what I'm thinking?"

"What, dad?"

 

"I'll make you some hot chocolate with whip cream. How does that sound?"

 

"Hmm...delicious!"

 

Victor lifted Sam upon his shoulder, then offered his arm to Evangeline. The three of them strolled quietly to the awaiting car.

 

 

Upon arrival at the penthouse, jackets, hats, gloves, and boots, were placed in the hallway closet. Sam waited downstairs, and Victor took Evangeline's bag up to the spacious guestroom. When he opened the door, Evangeline's eyes gazed around, taking it all in. There was a style about the room. The room's features included a closet, dresser, desk, comfortable chair, and a detached bathroom.

Jasmine-scented candles and a vase of magnolias on the dresser indulged the senses. At the left-hand corner of the room stood a small decorated Christmas tree with colorful mini gift boxes displayed underneath. A crystal chandelier hung from the center of the high ceiling. Evangeline's eyes began focusing on the king-size bed draped with holiday-themed fleece bedding and six memory foam pillows lined up in three different rows.

 

"How do you like the room?"

 

"I like it a lot."

 

She quickly jumped into bed and went into a doze. Victor couldn't believe it or maybe he could. Quietly he positioned her beneath the covers and kissed her on the cheek. He gazed down at her with a concerned look, stroking the back of her hair then the side of her face."What's wrong, Sweetheart? What is it that you're not telling me?"

 

 

Dashing through the snow

In a one-horse open sleigh

Through the fields we go

Laughing all the way.

Bells on bob-tail ring

Making spirits bright

What fun it is to ride and sing

A sleighing song tonight.

 

Evangeline slept long enough to feel rested. She showered and spruced up just in time for dinner. By the time she made her appearance in the contemporary dining room, it seemed that Victor and Sam were awaiting her arrival. Dinnerware, cutlery, glasses, and folded napkins lay neatly while the food remained hidden beneath a silver cloche.

 

"You're finally awake, sleeping beauty."

 

"Well, a lady does need her beauty rest."

 

Victor pulled out her seat. "You do look lovely this evening."

 

She wore a grey sweater, jeans, and hair in her natural curls with just a little lip balm.

 

"Thank you. I hope I didn't have you gentlemen waiting for me too long."

 

"Just a teeny bit," said Victor demonstrating with his thumb and index finger.

 

Evangeline smirked. "So, what's for dinner?"

 

"Voila!" Victor announced as he lifted the cloche. "Roast leg of lamb, potatoes, and carrots for us while Sam will chow down on mini chicken pot pies."

 

"Hmm...looks and smells scrumptious," she said as the savory smell wafted through the air.

 

"After dinner, we'll watch a movie..."

 

"A Christmas story," Sam interjected. "With popcorn."

 

"Yes, and yes."

 

"Daddy, we can also show Evangeline the Christmas tree."

 

Victor smacked his forehead. "Of course. How could I have forgotten?" then he winked at Evangeline, who smiled.

 

 

"Are your eyes closed?"

 

Evangeline nodded as Victor and Sam led her towards the living room.

 

"You can open them now."

 

Evangeline's eyes sprang open to a spectacular scene. "Oh, wow...wow." Her eyes took in the scene. "This is pretty awesome!"

 

The lights from the Fraser fir Christmas tree twinkled and illuminated the semi-darkened room. The tree was decked out with gold, green, and red decorations of garlands, ornaments, baubles, tinsels, and crystal angels. A bright, gold star fitted prominently atop the nine-foot tree. An array of presents lay neatly beneath its garlanded branches. The Llanview skyline provided a stunning backdrop.

 

"This is one of the most amazing trees I've ever seen. And the two of you decorated this all by yourselves? Bravo!" Evangeline began clapping.

 

"Evangeline, daddy..."

 

Victor instantly swooped up Sam and started tickling him. "Don't give away our secrets," said Victor as Sam squealed with laughter.

 

"I believe I already figured out the secret," she teased. "Regardless, it's still a wonderful surprise. I love it!"

 

Victor turned on the lights and said, "Then, you'll also love this."

 

He presented her with a personalized glass bauble. On the inside, a tiny crystal Christmas tree sparkled; while on the outside, her first name was printed out in gold lettering.

 

Her mouth hung slightly open. "This is sooo beautiful." She could barely take her eyes off it.

 

"You can place it anywhere on the tree."

 

She fixed it right next to a couple of personalized baubles that featured Victor and Sam's names.

 

 

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire

Jack Frost nipping at your nose

Yule-tide carols being sung by a choir

And folks dressed up like Eskimos

 

All three huddled together underneath a woolen blanket on the sectional sofa watching the movie. Before the hour chimed eight o'clock, Sam fell asleep, and Victor took him upstairs to bed. Evangeline patiently waited for his return and continued munching on some of the buttery popcorn.

 

"Are you and Jack still talking?" said Evangeline immediately after he rejoined her on the sofa. "I expected to run into him sooner or later."

 

"He's actually in Colorado, skiing with friends. Todd and Blair's Christmas gift. He seems to be having a good time."

 

"That's good news. ...Sooo...tell me about your novel."

 

"There isn't that much to say. It's a fictional, mystery novel that has been tumbling over in my brain for quite some time. So far, the publisher approves of my first draft, but I continue to do some fine-tuning. It doesn't even have a definitive title as yet." Evangeline gazed at him a little surprised. "I hope you didn't think I was writing about the hidden secret lives of Llanview's elite."

 

"Perhaps."

 

"Don't worry, that will come later." Evangeline threw a pillow at him. "What...I'm just kidding."

 

"Why don't I believe you? Hopefully, you'll allow me to read a copy before it hits the big time."

 

Victor chuckled at that generous supposition. "You'll receive the first copy."

 

Rather suddenly, Victor switched off the television and turned off the music.

 

"Hey, the movie isn't over as yet."

 

Victor sighed. "We need to talk, Evangeline."

 

"Okay," she said, turning to face him. "Go on. I'm always here to listen." The look in his eyes unsettled her a little.

 

"It's not about me...it's about you."

 

Evangeline moved back slightly with a confused look in her eyes. "What about me?"

 

"Evangeline, tell me, what's going on? You're keeping something hidden from me. Talk to me," he stressed, caressing her cheek.

 

She brushed his hand away. "Don't..."

 

He instantly stirred an unwelcome set of emotions within her. Her mind started thinking of what to do next.

 

"Evangeline, don't shut me out."

 

"There's nothing to tell, Victor," she sneered at him.

 

"Don't lie to me, Evangeline. Don't lie to yourself. Am I not capable of listening? Am I not your best friend?" He reached for her hands. "I can't count the number of times you have sacrificed to be there for me in my darkest moments. Let me do the same for you now in a small way." He gently lifted her chin. "Sweetheart, talk to me."

 

She softly said, "I don't want to. What's the point?"

 

Maybe he was right, and she didn't believe him capable. Within those chocolate, brown eyes, the heartache started to unveil itself.

 

"One day, all those emotions will come bursting out if you keep things bottled up inside. Then you will not only hurt yourself but those you care about the most. Remember, you taught me that."

 

She finally blurted out. "Everything was fine in Washington until I got back here!"

 

She leaned her head back and stared up at the vaulted ceiling. Except for the crackling fire, an eerie silence filled the room. That statement jolted him, but he quietly waited on her to speak again.

 

She lowered her gaze, linking her eyes with his. "When you look at me, what do you see?"

 

"Strength, beauty, confidence, able to take on anything that comes," he stated without hesitancy.

 

"I am all those things, and yet I'm not. ...My friend, let me enlighten you. Llanview makes me feel weak, fragile, and powerless. My relationships have failed, not to mention my private practice. I cannot succeed here. I've been kidnapped, blinded, and languished in a coma for many months. I can count on my one hand the friends who have been there through the struggle."

 

Her revelations shocked him. How could he have not known how much she was hurting, or maybe he was too wrapped up in his selfish needs to care. Either she kept things hidden well, or he couldn't see through his haze.

 

" In Llanview, I play my role too well. So much so that I've been stereotyped. You once told me, I care too much. I do care. I tried to be everything to everybody else and forgot about myself in the process. ...People don't see me, and I don't think they want to. They see who they want to see."

 

"I'm glad I got out of here even if it meant leaving behind the people I care about the most. I needed to rejoin the land of the living because I was becoming dead inside. I found it difficult to stop the darkness from overtaking my soul. There were too many unpleasant reminders surrounding me."

 

Her hands instantly covered her face. Victor pulled her into a tight, comforting embrace. It was all he could think to do.

"Forgive me for not reaching out to you earlier," said Victor while kissing her forehead. "I'm so so sorry. I shouldn't have asked you to come."

 

She softly replied, "It's not your fault. Not until today, did I realize, how much I was holding on to the past. I tried so hard..."

 

"Sweetheart, let it out. You don't need to be strong for me, just let it out."

 

She finally let it out. Her body began shaking, uncontrollable tears streaming down her face. She kept up a brave face for far too long. Holding it together like the "perfect" daughter, sister, and friend would. After all, everyone came to her for advice, comfort, and a shoulder to lean on.

 

Victor's heart broke for her. His eyes glistened with unshed tears.

 

"Whatever you need, as long as I'm able, I will always be here for you."

Chapter 6 by chocolate470

"I can't believe I didn't see it?"

 

"See what?" he asked softly.

 

Evangeline leaned her head against his right shoulder, and he stroked along her left arm, which rested across his chest.

It took a little time, but Evangeline had calmed down considerably, and the two remained on the couch listening to the crackling fire.

"Llanview is one of those suburban communities where everyone appears to be so welcoming. They greet you with lovely words and phrases. How are you doing? I would like you to meet my family. That dress likes amazing on you, where did you buy it? Behind your back, however, their true feelings are revealed without you even realizing it. I'm an outsider and always will be."

 

"Forget them. You're a part of my group and always will be."

 

The truth was he felt like an outsider too. He lifted her hand to his lips then gently kissed it.

 

"I don't like you, you know."

 

"What did I do now?" He gave her a puzzled look.

 

"You know too much of me."

 

"That makes us two peas in a pod because you know too much of me as well," he retorted.

 

"I was once your defense lawyer. What's your excuse?"

 

"I'm your best friend, and I want what's best for you."

 

"Me too."

 

Suddenly they heard the loud peal of the church bells. Midnight, it was Christmas Day. The two of them sprang to their feet and raced towards the window. The night sky lighted up with a dazzling fireworks display. One after another, brilliant, multi-colored, fiery sparks, soaring, then exploding through the cold night air. Brocades, Peony, Crossettes, Chrysanthemum, Pearls displays passed through their retinas.

 

"It's so breathtaking when you see it like this; such a perfect view. Too bad Sam is missing out."

 

"I know," responded Victor thoughtfully.

 

Evangeline snaked an arm around his waist. "Merry Christmas, Victor."

 

"Merry Christmas, Evangeline," replied Victor, kissing her temple.

 

"Thank you for being such an amazing friend."

 

"As you are to me."

 

Twenty minutes later and everything returned to normal. Evangeline stifled a yawn.

 

"I guess its time to head upstairs, take a bath, and off to dreamland. I can't wait to see to look on Sam's face when he opens his many presents."

 

Victor's shoulders slumped. "I didn't go overboard with my gift buying."

 

Evangeline winked back at him. "I believe you too."

 

Victor chuckled, gazing at her as she exited the room. At least, she sounded and appeared to be better than a couple of hours ago. He knew quite well emotional scars weren't usually healed in a few hours. Everything was a process, and Evangeline was just getting started. He retrieved the remaining popcorn, popping a couple into his mouth. He too needed to go upstairs, check on Sam, bathe and go to bed.

 

 

Although tired, Evangeline still twisted and turned in bed. Her mind preoccupied with changes that needed to be made to move forward with her life. Releasing that pent up emotion was terrific, but once she got back to Washington, she couldn't just focus on her job, which presented its own set of challenges. She needed to get out, socialize, perhaps even do some volunteering. Ellen Davis, one of the firm's lawyers from another team, kept asking her to join in on a morning run, but she kept putting her off. She also thought about writing in a journal again. Journal, exercising with Ellen and volunteering, her mind must be finally satisfied with these decisions made.

 

"Thankfully, there's that yawn again. Time to finally get some sleep."

 

 

The next morning...

 

Here we are at the olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Gather near to us once more
Through the years we all will be together
If the fates allow
Hang a shining star upon the highest bough
And have yourself a merry little Christmas now    

 

The snow flurries outside came and went. Inside the cozy penthouse, both Victor and Evangeline enjoyed watching Sam tear into his gifts. Discarded wrapping paper, ribbons, boxes, and bags lay strewn beneath the Christmas tree. Sam received builder sets, Legos, educational games, a scooter, and new outfits. Immediately the Lego construction set caught Sam's attention, and he instantly started stacking the colorful blocks.

 

"You see Evangeline, not too much," said Victor rather proud of himself.

 

"I'll bet there is a bike with all the accessories hidden somewhere," Evangeline teased while sipping on her coffee.

 

"I already brought one of those for his birthday, and it's not broken. He doesn't need a new one just yet," he chuckled.

 

"Well, Victor, I've also brought a couple of gifts. They are around here somewhere." She fetched a small bag from behind the couch. "And don't say, I shouldn't have because its already done." The gifts stored in small Christmas gift bags. "...Here and here. Merry Christmas from me to you. It's just my way of saying thanks."

 

 

Sam received a Vtech smartwatch. "Whoa...thanks Evangeline." He gave her a warm hug, and his gaze returned to the watch.

 

Victor was captivated by his gift. "Evangeline, you didn't."

 

"Yes, I did. Sometimes I can splurge just like you."

 

 

"A Rolex, though."

 

"Yeah, why not. I don't do these things often. Besides, you deserve it. I can take it back..."

 

"No way!" Victor did own a couple of Rolexes, but he was going to cherish this one above all others. "Thanks so much, Evangeline," he said, embracing her tightly. "This is a keepsake. You must have blown your bonus."

 

She thought about it. She bought gifts for a lot more people than usual. "Hmm, not quite."

 

"Daddy, where is Evangeline's gift?" Sam asked, concerned.

 

Evangeline reassured, "Baby, your dad already gave me a gift." Of course, Evangeline was referring to Victor hosting her for Christmas.

 

"Evangeline, I do have a gift for you upstairs."

 

"Where upstairs?"

 

"In your room, under the Christmas tree."

 

"Huh...those cute little boxes..."

 

"Some are indeed props, but three of them are gifts."

 

A light went off in her brain. "The Tiffany blue boxes," she smirked at him.

 

"I got you this time around. Besides, these pieces aren't worth a million dollars."

 

She snorted. "How about altogether?" Victor gave her a knowing smile.

 

 

A few minutes later...

 

 

 

"I adore this collection so detailed and exquisite." She gazed at herself in the hallway mirror. "A little help with the necklace." Victor immediately went to her aid. She turned towards them and asked, "How do I look?"

 

They both replied, "Beautiful."

 

 

Throughout the day, Christmas greetings from friends and family pinged on their respective phones. Mele Kalikimaka was a surprise greeting from Layla that stood out. It seemed Hawaii was the better Christmas vacation option, after all.

 

Later on, Victor decided to take them out to brunch then to the bowling alley. Afterward, they planned on going to the Children's Hospital to drop off some Christmas gifts.

 

Well way up north where the air gets cold

Well way up north where the air gets cold

There's a tale about Christmas
That you've all been told
And a real famous cat all dressed up in red
And he spends all year workin' out on his sled

It's the little Saint Nick (little Saint Nick)

It's the little Saint Nick (little Saint Nick) 

 

"Victor quit stalling."

 

"Don't rush me."

 

"Dad, you're taking too long," Sam grumbled.

 

"Okay, okay." Victor finally made his approach and released the ball. He kept a keen eye on it as it curved down the lane. "Yeah. Strike!" He raised his hands in the air then gave them high-fives. "You see, it's all in the technique."

 

Evangeline rolled her eyes.

 

"Victor! Victor!"

 

"Hitch?" He turned towards her as she approached. "I didn't expect to see you around here."

 

"Neither did I." They hugged each other. "Merry Christmas."

 

"Merry Christmas to you too."

 

"Thanks for that spa gift certificate. It will certainly come in handy." She, in turn, knitted him a scarf unsure of what to give a man who could afford anything. Still, he appreciated the effort. "Your sister is still miffed that you are not helping her out at the soup kitchen, or stopping by for dinner later."

 

"Why can't she accept that I have other plans?" There were times that Viki couldn't leave situations alone. " Anyways, I want to introduce you to my best friend. Evangeline..."

 

"Evangeline is here." When Evangeline walked up to them, Lynn thought pictures didn't do her justice.

 

"Evangeline, this is my good friend Lynn Hitchcock."

 

Victor has a new friend. Evangeline thought it strange that he hadn't mentioned her before now. Evangeline's eyes took her in from head to toe. The brunette seemed bubbly. Hopefully, there wasn't anything in her background to raise red flags.

 

She held out her hand in greeting. "Merry Christmas. It's nice to meet you, Lynn."

 

"Merry Christmas to you too, Evangeline. It's great to meet Victor's best friend. He mentions you very often."

 

"Well, we've been friends for many years, and there are many stories to tell."

 

"I'd better get going before the weather changes again. Hey Sam."

 

"Hi, Lynn."

 

 

"Why didn't you tell me that you have a new friend," asked Evangeline with a smile on her face. "This proves how much you've changed. You can make new friends. I'm just surprised that you didn't tell me anything about her until now."

 

"Perhaps I was selfish about our conversations. I didn't want you going into your lawyer-mode, whereby you ask me every detail about Lynn. Then later, you conduct background research."

 

Evangeline laughed at his synopsis. "I promise I wouldn't have done that."

 

"Really? In the past, I've hung around with some questionable individuals."

 

"For your devious gains as Todd Manning." Evangeline pointed out. "Lynn appears to be a good person, and that makes her good for you."

 

"By the way, she works for Viki as an assistant."

 

"I'm not sure if that is a good or bad thing."

 

On the surface, Evangeline and Viki were cordial, but underneath there was no love lost between the two powerful women.

 

"Daddy, I'm getting tired." Sam came up to them, rubbing his eyes.

 

"Looks like its time for his nap." He scooped up Sam into his arms. "It seems I'll have to deliver those presents later.

 

 

Victor did not want to concentrate on it, and for that fact, neither did Evangeline. Her time in Llanview quickly went by. She had her one moment, but for the most part, she enjoyed her time spent with Victor and Sam. Both made her Christmas special, and memorable.

 

After the traditional Christmas dinner that evening, the trio thought about either playing a game or taking another gander at watching a movie - rock, paper, scissors shoot."Hahaha, I win," remarked a gleeful Sam. "Paper covers rock." Both Victor and Evangeline opted for rock and lost out.

 

Victor asked, "So what movie do you want to watch kiddo?"

 

"Home Alone - the original. It's the best," announced an excited Sam.

 

"I'll bet you'll fall asleep again like the last time," said Evangeline playfully.

 

"Nuh-uh," responded an adamant Sam. "I'll watch the whole thing."

 

Victor and Evangeline looked at each other and smiled.

 

Instead of popcorn, they created a mixture of mini-pretzels twists, Chex cereal, cheese crackers, and mixed nuts.

 

As Evangeline predicted, Sam was out like a light before an hour had passed. This time around. Victor didn't immediately take him upstairs. He enjoyed watching this movie. It always gave him a good laugh even though he knew every scene like a book.

 

"Victor, I need to call it a night. I have some packing to do and emails to check. We have an early start tomorrow unless you're not taking me."

 

"I'll take you to the airport." He momentarily went silent. ...I can't believe that you are already leaving when it feels like you've only just arrived."

 

"Time flies when you're having a lot of fun. You and Sam were impeccable hosts. I'm glad I came after all." She kissed them both on the foreheads. "I'm going to miss you guys." She gazed around the room. "I'm going to miss experiencing all of this."

 

"I feel the same way."

 

 

The next morning...

 

Light snow covered the ground, and they strolled arm in arm towards the hangar at the private airport. A small crew taxied the private jet onto the cleared runway. Christmas may have come and gone, but it's residual still hung in the air.

Evangeline thought back to her last conversation with Sam at the penthouse. It was hard saying goodbye to him, who soon realized that he wasn't going to see Evangeline in a long while. He embraced her tightly and explained that he was going to miss her very much.

 

Victor's mind thought about his time to say goodbye. Their time together flew by so fast. Their lives, jobs, and scheduling conflicts would make this type of get-together rare occurrences. After her revelation, he questioned if she would want to return anytime soon.

 

"You should fight to regain custody of Sam. I think the time is right. Don't you?"

 

"I do believe so. I wasn't sure until now. My life has changed completely for the better, and it's not like Blair can claim that she spends more time with him when she owns a business as well. I'm fearful of her situation with Todd. Jack has let me in on a little secret - not all is right in paradise. I know the games. I've played them myself. I don't want Sam caught in the middle of that fray."

 

"He's been through so much at such a young age. He needs that stability that you can provide as his father. I can give you the name of a great lawyer who has many years of experience fighting these types of custody battles. Jeffery Rupert."

 

"Oh, I know who he is. Thanks."

 

Victor escorted her into the plane's cabin then spoke briefly with the pilot before taking a seat next to her on the sofa.

 

Victor took her hands into his and asked, "Are you alright?"

 

"I'm better than I was before. It truly wasn't easy revealing that part of me to you. I guess it felt like the shoe was on the other foot, and I didn't relish having to accept that truth. The bottom line is I must start this healing process. It's going to take time. How long? I'm not certain, but I've set my course of action."

 

"Just don't shut me out," he quickly added.

 

"It's the one thing I'll never do, promise."

 

"Evangeline...."

 

He stared deeply into her dark-brown eyes. His heart rate began rising exponentially. In an instant, he perceived all her beauty; hair, face, eyes, then there was that inner spark that glowed within her. "What is it?" she asked with a note of concern in her tone.

 

Suddenly it happened. Victor pushed his tongue inside her mouth and rested both palms on the nape of her neck. Evangeline exhibited no resistance to his onslaught. The kiss was demanding, passionate. Their lips pressed hard against one another. He savored every taste of her sweet lips. Then just as quickly, he pulled away. She seemed lost in a trance.

 

Leaning forward by her ear, he whispered, "One more thing for you to think about," before quickly exited the plane.

 

He left her stunned, speechless, delicately touching her swollen lips.

Chapter 7 by chocolate470

"I can't think about this right now, and you know that," stated Evangeline emphatically. She walked back and forth, at times pushing her fingers through her hair.

 

Even after finally arriving back in Washington, Evangeline found no peace of mind. Most conversations with her colleagues centered around how she spent her holiday. She responded as politely as possible, although seemed preoccupied.

 

"Are you alright?"


"Why?"

 

"You seemed distracted."


"Do I? I think the pile of work waiting at my desk has brought me back to earth."

 

""I know the feeling." She and Ellen shared a laugh. "It's great that we love our careers."

 

"Or we may be asking ourselves why every day at work." Another chuckle as the two walked along the corridor.

 

Of course, the real reason for her preoccupation was that mentally escaping thoughts of that kiss were impossible. Admittedly, she relished it very much, then recalling that this was the third time that Victor had placed her in this precarious position. The other two occasions appeared random, explained away by the heat of the moment, so many emotions and circumstances at play, but this time felt different.

 

She finally took a break, locking her office door, explaining to Tiffany that she would be unavailable for the next fifteen minutes. If she didn't speak with Victor now, it would drive her insane.

 

"It's like you are throwing a wrench into my plans. Turning what I need to accomplish upside down."

 

"Calm down, Evangeline. Calm down." He heard and felt her anger through the phone. "Please, take a moment to breathe."

 

She followed his advice, closing her eyes, taking a deep breath, and letting it out.

 

"Evangeline, it's not my intent to put you under any more pressure than you are experiencing."

 

"Oh, really," she responded incredulously. "Then explain it to me, Victor, because I can't make sense of what you did." She plopped down into her seat. "Do you want me to answer you right now?"

 

"Sweetheart, no. Of course not. I do understand what you must do and all the steps you need to take. Remember, I've been down this road before, but there will come a time when you will recover and want to start life anew. The notion of having someone being a part of your life again will come. Would you agree with me or not?"

 

She rolled over the image in her head. "Sure, I accept that."

 

"Then I'm just throwing my hat in the ring before anyone else. I want to be first in line. I want you to see me other than just your best friend."

 

"So when did that notion come to you?" she softly asked.

 

"I guess the moment you left. I felt alone."

 

So it was finally out in the open. Those emotions lay buried in the past, never being in the right place at the right time. Two broken hearts unable to connect. Evangeline fully embraced the role of being a best friend, confidant. Would she ever want her mind to go there again?

 

"Yes, I do have feelings for you. Have they always been there? I believe so, but everything and everyone kept getting in the way of exploring it. Yet, I can't and won't get into it right now. First, you need to heal, and that's most important. I never want to hurt you."

 

"So, you're giving me that time and space to think, heal?"

 

"Certainly, why wouldn't I? I may have come on strong, but whatever you need, I'll do. ...So are we alright?"

 

"Of course," she chuckled. "I can't stay mad at you for too long. You know I adore you as my best friend. I don't want anything or anyone to hurt you in any way."

 

"I feel the same about you."

 

"Does that mean that there can be more between us? I'm not sure. Yet when that chance comes along, I will carefully consider the possibility."

 

"It's all I'm asking."

 

"I need to go. You can't take to long a break for emotions at work. Take care, Victor."

 

"You too. When can I call you to catch up?"

 

"I'll call you, promise."

 

She set down the phone carefully on her desk and spent the next few minutes lost in thought. The innocence of their relationship was now forever altered. At the moment, it wasn't the right time to dwell on it. She had her mental health to take care of first, yet it scared her what may come next.

 

 

But as the weeks passed by, it became apparent that they were living separate lives, and quite fine in doing so. Evangeline was kept busy with the ongoing Marino trial, other cases coming her way while still carrying out her plan of emotional healing. Victor, on the other hand, concentrated on his custody case. He arranged a meeting with Jeffery Rupert, who took his case and proceeded to file the necessary paperwork. His digital business and followup meetings with Rupert almost placed his unfinished novel on the back burner. In the meantime, Evangeline rarely called, but Victor appreciated the times when she did so. Their conversations mainly focused on their experiences. Evangeline congratulated him on filing for custody while he followed the progression of the Marino case.

 

"You're good. You had that prosecution witness stumbling through his testimony."

 

"Didn't know you were watching boring court tv?"

 

"Only when you're the star of the show."

 

He kept his word by giving her the time and space needed. Fairly soon, Victor started sensing a change and took note of her upbeat attitude.

 

 

"Evangeline..."

 

"Hey, Ellen."

 

Ellen caught up with her just as she was about to enter the elevator.

 

"Today is the day, right?"

 

"Well, we're hoping that the jury has returned with a decision." The jury was out for three days now. "I'm off to interview a new client. I hate waiting around when jobs are beckoning."

 

"You're moving up in this firm. The publicity associated with this case has shined a spotlight on your capabilities. You've done such an amazing job, and everyone is impressed, especially the partners."

 

"You're making this black girl blush. Thanks for the compliment. I love that my hard work is paying off."

 

"Are we still on for that run once spring arrives?"

 

"In a couple of weeks, I'm there."

 

"Sidebar counselor." Evangeline obliged. "Have you heard from Robert lately?"

 

"Not really, and not that I care to," came Evangeline's flippant response. "Why?"

 

"He's been complaining that ever since you came back from your Christmas holiday, he has become persona non grata."

 

"He's a lawyer. He should be able to take rejection."

 

"Ouch, Evangeline. Love it."

 

"I don't get why he's making an issue about this. He asked me out for coffee once, and I accepted. It's not like we ended up canoodling after that. If he's complaining this much to other people after so many months have passed, then he's not the type of guy I would ever be interested in dating." She quickly glanced down at her watch. "Gotta run. I'll chat with you later."

 

 

One day Victor was working at his office. He needed a little time away from all the custody preparations. It appeared that when he was in the mood to write, the workspace inspired him more and more. Could it be the artist's rendition of Evangeline and Sam at Angel Park? It hung prominently on the wall. He smiled to himself, it was possible. Then another thought crept through.  

What if Evangeline didn't perceive their relationship beyond friendship. What would he do if she rejected the possibility? Could he stand in the background, watching as she moved on with her life with another man?

 

Suddenly the ringing of his office phone snapped him back to reality.

 

"Yeah, Tina."

 

"Mr. Lord, I have Blair on line two for you."

 

He sighed heavily. He wasn't in the mood for a confrontation over the phone.

 

While debating his next move, Tina chimed in. "She sounds normal as it can be for Blair Manning. Although, she's insistent on urgently speaking with you."

 

"Okay, put her through."

 

 

"Victor, we need to meet."

 

"I'm not sure that's such a good idea, Blair."

 

"Believe me; I want this situation resolved as quickly as possible. We can work this out."

 

"Through the courts," Victor rebutted.

 

"It doesn't have to be that way." Those words piqued his interest. "Victor, you will want to hear me out for Sam's sake."

 

"Time and place..."

 

 

An hour later

 

Walking into Vita's coffee shop brought back memories of his former life as Todd Manning. He recalled often stopping in and enjoying an espresso and glazed donut when time permitted. He speculated that perhaps Blair chose this location to put him at ease about their meeting. He gazed around and finally spotted her sitting at one of the corner tables, tapping her manicured fingers on a cup of coffee. The transitioning weather found her donning a blazer over a pink sweater with blue jeans while Victor dressed in a blue cotton sweater, denim jeans with brown suedes.

When he finally caught her eye, he was unsure how the conversation would go after taking a seat across from her. A waitress came up to the table, and he ordered an espresso. Vita's was busy as it always was, but the spacious seating arrangements allowed for intimate discussions.

 

"Blair, I'm here now, so let's get down to business."

 

"Its time for Sam to finally have a full-time relationship with his dad."

 

Her words astounded him. He blinked a couple of times. He had mentally prepared for a long, drawn-out battle with the Mannings praying that Sam wouldn't resent them all in the end. It couldn't be this easy, could it?

 

"What's the catch?"

 

"There is none," she replied, taking a small sip of her coffee.

 

"Really?"

 

"Really..."

 

As the conversation progressed, they discussed Sam's milestones, his development in school despite the deteriorating situation at home.

 

"You and Todd?"

 

"Divorcing... he's taken off somewhere." She took another sip of her coffee, then spun the cup clockwise.

 

Somewhere? Victor viewed that information as a warning. He needed to be on guard.

 

"Of course, Starr is pretty upset with me. I never gave the marriage a chance to work, but my heart was never into it, and we both know why."

 

She stared at him intently, but he shifted his eyes away, not wanting to get into it. He was relieved when the waitress returned with his order.

 

"Anything else, sir?"

"No, this is fine."

 

 

The coffee smelled just like he remembered, and the taste - perfect.

 

"By the way, I know that Jack has been hanging out with you."

 

"I'm surprised you didn't get angry about it."

 

"When I seriously thought about it, I understood his attachment to you. Todd went ballistic, and he threatened to confront you, but I told him that any action against you would isolate Jack even further. He begrudgingly agreed after smashing a hole in the wall, almost fracturing his hand. He felt like he was in an unattainable situation, the arguments escalated from there."

 

Victor felt awkward. Her resigned tone filled with traces of sadness. He wanted to sympathize with Blair but wasn't sure that he should, knowing that any kind gesture may give her the wrong impression.

 

"I don't know what to say. Despite our differences, I do want you to see you happy, Blair..."

 

"I'm just so confused, Victor. You can't just throw away eight years of having a strong connection with someone."

 

Victor took a long sip of his coffee, then eased back into his seat.

 

"I'm sorry if you don't want to hear all of this."

 

"Blair, you've got to understand that I'm not Todd Manning. There are certain people, places, and things that give me reminders, but I've moved on. I've worked hard on developing an identity that is mine alone. We had our share of great times, but those memories did not belong to you and I. It belonged to you and someone else."

 

Those last words stung her deeply. A couple of tears streamed down her face, and she hastily wiped them away.

 

Victor stood up, then pulled a twenty from his wallet, placing it on the table.

 

"I need to go. My lawyer will get in contact with your lawyer to resolve any issues, paperwork, and things like that." She merely nodded her head. "We may still need to do a court appearance, but my lawyer can confirm that." He leaned forward and kissed her forehead. "Thanks for doing what's best for Sam. Take care, Blair."

 

She briefly grasped his hand, and he didn't pull it away. "You too."

 

She regarded every step he took towards the exit. It was better to have loved.

Chapter 8 by chocolate470

It turned out to be one of those late evenings for Victor. The arrangements and paperwork, meaning a final custody decree was still being worked out. In the meantime, he kept himself busy at the office with clients, emails, and phone calls, afterward concentrating on his writing. Being that this was his first novel, he truly wanted to meet the publisher's deadline. The hours flew by so quickly that he didn't notice when it was time for him to leave the office.

 

After one such evening, he walked to his SUV in the building's underground parking garage, engrossed in conversation with one of his clients. Suddenly he felt a funny feeling come over him. He quickly ended the conversation. Soon Victor felt an arm grabbed him around his neck and felt the nozzle of a gun on his temple.

 

"Are you serious right now?"

 

"As a heart attack, brother."

 

Victor wasn't the least bit scared. If Todd wanted him dead, he would have been already. Besides, his breath smelt of alcohol.

 

"So, are we just going to stand here?"

 

"Shut up will you, I need to get some things off my chest!"

 

 

"Drop your weapon!"

 

Paul came up behind Todd. "I said, drop it!"

 

Todd turned around with Victor in tow. He could see that Paul didn't take out any weapon.

 

"I'm the one with the gun pointed at you, so don't be barking orders at me!"

 

"Oh, you think I can't!"

 

Paul lounged at him, quickly grabbed his wrist, twisting his arm firmly until the gun fell to the ground.

 

"I don't need a weapon to deal with cockroaches like you."

Todd continued to struggle, but Paul had effectively subdued him into submission. Todd was a mismatch to Paul's size and fitness. Sweat drenched his body, and he was gasping for air. When Paul finally let him go, his body crumpled to the garage floor. Whatever technique he applied, made Todd's body feel drained and achy.

 

"Do you want me to do anything else to him, Mr. Lord?"

 

"Nah, he's had enough for now."

 

Todd instantly started laughing.

 

"You're pathetic," he remarked.

 

"I'm pathetic? Look at you - inebriated. Was this how you planned to kill me with bloodshot eyes?"

 

"Not really, but if it happened, it happened."

 

Todd soon realized he had walked straight into a trap. He was losing his touch. "I'm getting too old for this game," he muttered beneath his breath. Todd remained seated on the ground, only easing up his back against one of the steel posts.

 

A perturbed Victor stood in front of him with arms crossed.

 

"Is that your only goal in life to erase me from existence?"

 

"I want to, but I'm too drunk to do so right now," he chuckled.

 

"And what would that accomplish?"

 

"I'll gain freedom from you, and all you took away from me!" he replied sternly.

 

"You could kill me a million times over, and you still won't get back those lost years. That's Irene's fault, not mine. Stop living in the past!"

 

"How can I move forward when my present still involves you. Now I get why Blair and I are divorcing. Jack doesn't regard me as his father. Blair has given you everything because she wants to be with you and not me." You could hear the anguish in his tone. "All I wanted was to have my life back, but now it's all gone."

 

Victor stooped down to his level. "Is it? What about Starr and Hope? Do you not see them? Do you not see how much they care for you? Stop feeling sorry for yourself. I lost too. I lost my identity, but I choose to move forward because it is all I can do. So you kill me then what? While you were concentrating so much at getting back at me, you forgot to rebuild your marriage..."

 

"Shut Up! Shut Up! Shut Up!" Todd covered his ears.

 

Victor forcefully pulled his hands away from his ears. "You are going to listen to me, brother. We may hate each other, wishing the other was dead, but it's not about us anymore. Stop being so selfish and get your life together! Grow Up! You're a grandfather for crying out loud."

 

Victor stood up again and blew out a huge breath. "Paulie..."

 

"Yeah, boss..."

 

"Don't hurt him....much."

 

 

Tonight Victor looked forward to facetime with Evangeline. The events that occurred a couple of evenings ago were behind him. He hadn't seen or heard anything more from Todd, not even Viki about the matter, which he considered strange. Viki always seemed to have a pulse on whatever was going on within the family dynamic, whether good or bad. Thinking back on it for a couple of weeks, he and Viki had conversed, but she didn't mention anything of significance - not his potential relationship with Lynn, the custody situation, and lately the incident with Todd. Perhaps Jessica clued her in on leaving her uncle alone and allowing him to handle his situations without her always running interference or offering advice. Then again, she was biding her time for that big conversation.

 

"You look tired."

 

"Well, so do you."

 

Evangeline appeared to be surrounded by paperwork, files, and law books.

 

"Already working on another case? I expected you to be celebrating your first big win."

 

From the beginning, the prosecution's case was built mainly on circumstantial evidence. Witnesses weren't present, and no security cameras were in the area. Marino finally got an opportunity to testify. The mock trial provided enough insight that he listened to his lawyers' directives and came across favorably to the jurors. When the verdict came down, the decision was unanimous. The prosecution hadn't met their burden of proof, and Evangeline's side came out victorious.

 

"The victory wasn't mine alone. It was a team effort. This firm has dealt with many big cases, what is one more."

 

"Nevertheless, it must feel awesome winning such a major case that has been all over the news lately."

 

"Yeah, it does feel satisfying," she replied with a huge smile.

 

He loved that grin. "There you go."

 

"Enough about me. Come on, Victor, I want an update about the custody case. ...Hmmm, I see a gleam in your eyes, care to share."

 

"Well, you'll be happy to learn that Blair and I have agreed that I should obtain primary and permanent custody of Sam."

 

She blinked a few times, unsure if she heard correctly. Indeed this was surprising news in many aspects. "Meaning?"

 

That's when Victor explained his meeting with Blair and everything they discussed. Evangeline wasn't too thrilled at all.

 

"I'm suspicious of Blair's actions. Why now?"

 

"Perhaps, for the first time, she's doing something selfless."

 

"Selfless? ...Blair wants something."

 

"Something like what?"

 

Victor couldn't be this clueless. Evangeline scoffed. "It's obvious she wants you back. Blair has always been into the battles and surrounding dramas. So now you want me to believe that she's done a 180? ...Victor, she invites you to one of your favorite cafes, knows that you and Jack are hanging out, but doesn't get the least bit upset, clues you in on her impending divorce, and to top it all off is freely giving you custody of Sam. That's what I call I want my ex back!"

 

A sly smile crept upon his face. "I think you're a little jealous."

 

Evangeline rolled her eyes. "No, I'm not. Victor, I'm not jealous." She threw a paper clip at the computer screen in mock frustration. "I don't need to be jealous of anyone, especially her."

 

"No, you don't, Sweetheart." He winked at her.

 

He watched her intently. Even with her hair tied in a ponytail wearing a throwback t-shirt, Evangeline was a beautiful woman. Everything about her was, and he so wanted her to consider him more than just a friend.

 

"Something on your mind?"

 

"In three weeks, I'll be in Washington for a meeting with my publisher. It will be a weekend visit, so I was hoping that we can meet up afterward and talk."

 

He hoped for an affirmative answer and waited with bated breath. There was no way he was discussing a potential relationship unless they were face to face.

 

"Sure, I'll clear my schedule, show you around a couple of sites, and then we can talk."

 

"Evangeline, you understand what..."

 

Evangeline immediately interjected, "I know, Victor, I know, and we'll lay everything out on the table."

 

Truthfully, she hadn't quite come to a definitive answer as yet. Twenty-one days lay between her and a huge decision. She didn't dare say it to his face, though.

 

"Are you scared now? ...Man, I wish I was there right now."

 

"So I can lay my head on your shoulder..."

 

"And tell you everything is going to be alright."

 

Those reassuring words spoken in his soft tone made her feel at ease once more. He always had a way of calming her through many stressful moments. She closed her eyes, recalling a time when he provided comfort when Christian had broken off their relationship.

 

"Evangeline, Evangeline..." 

 

"Huh..."

 

"Where did you go just now?"

 

"Another time, another place."

 

"I think I better let you get back to work or better yet go to bed."

 

"In a while, I'll see you real soon, but talk to you later."

 

"Goodnight, Sweetheart."

 

 

"This is a real surprise, Evangeline. I can't recall when you ever called me in the middle of a workday. What's going on? Are you feeling okay?"

 

"I'm fine, Layla. I'm just sitting around the office, staring at my computer, and the clock on the wall. It suddenly dawns on me that I should call Layla."

 

She was indeed in her office, researching a couple of cases on her laptop yet very distracted. She finally shut down her computer then took a few moments to think. She desperately needed advice from someone she trusted.

 

"Funny, you're not. Come on, talk to me. Something must be bugging you."

 

She immediately replied, "It's Victor."

 

"Victor?"

 

"Listen, your big sister is conflicted. Just hear me out and be reasonable."

 

"Okay," replied Layla warily.

 

"Victor wants us to be more than just friends, and I'm terrified of losing my best friend in the process. What if..."

 

"Wait a minute, you and Victor?"

 

"Does that surprise you? Is it truly an outrageous idea?"

 

Layla tapped her index finger on her cheek. "When I think about it, humph, not really. You two have been best friends for years, always defending one another no matter what. He even stood up to Blair and Viki for you whenever they attacked your character. Yeah, I do see it."

 

"Why do you have to say it like that?"

 

"Sis, if you want to be with him, be with him. Why is my approval so paramount?"

 

Evangeline sighed. "I don't know. I don't know, and that's the problem. I've found a great job. I love the city. I'm finally feeling like my old self."

 

"And Victor has to come along and complicate things. Is that it? You're always attracting complicated men. Victor is a complicated guy."

 

"Who has feelings for me."

 

"Do you care for him in that way?"

 

"I can't say no."

 

Layla smacked her forehead. "You are doing it again. Stop overthinking things Vange, either you do, or you don't. It's not fair to him if you keep straddling the fence like this."

 

"I don't want him out of my life, yet it feels like everything is rushing at me like a tidal wave."

 

Layla chuckled, "A Victor tidal wave. So when will you guys see each other face to face."

 

"In three weeks, he has a meeting, but he's also coming out to see me and discuss things."

 

"I don't envy your position. I get that so far your relationships haven't worked out. Having your heart broken a few times doesn't bode well for the next guy in line. Evangeline, please don't judge this potential relationship with all your past failures. You always blame yourself when things don't turn out well. It's the perfectionist in you. Stop doing that, or you'll drive yourself crazy and end up alone."

 

"Wise words that I'll take to heart. Thanks, sis."

Chapter 9 by chocolate470
Author's Notes:
MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL MY READERS!!!!

 


Ellen remarked, "Now that was a good run."

 

"It's great to get the heart pumping," Evangeline replied in between stretches.

 

She was enjoying these early morning runs whenever she was able to. It assisted greatly in clearing her thoughts and lowering her stress levels. The two friends usually ran along the trails in Laurel Creek Park.

 

"How about a girls' night out."

 

"I'm not sure about that, Ellen. I'm trying my best to get a couple of cases resolved quickly. I so want an entire weekend to myself."

 

"Oh, I see. Planning something special?

 

"Let's just say if all goes accordingly, I'll share the details afterward," she chuckled.

 

"I can't wait." Ellen briefly went quiet, then said. "And about that other thing?"

 

Evangeline instantly knew what she was talking about and let out a breath. "I get that Myers is going to find out what I'm doing..."

 

"He's going to be none too pleased either," Ellen interjected.

 

"It might not seem that way, but I do have a great deal of respect for him. He's just not listening to my concerns. I'm not happy about the team dynamic. I can't and won't work under those conditions."

 

"Evangeline...I hate to say this, but your actions may jeopardize your career in Washington." Ellen sounded concerned.

 

Evangeline tugged on her ponytail. "I recognize what it could mean for my career, but my mamma didn't raise a pushover."

 

"Neither do the rest of us. Unfortunately, we are far too busy to find out or care to know."

 

"Why does Molly have so much power? Are the two sleeping together? Is she blackmailing him? Is there some secret that the two of them share? I just don't get it."

 

***

 

Later on, as she was coming off a call with a client, Tiffany knocked at her door.

 

"Mr. Myers wants to see you right away. It doesn't sound like he's in the best of moods either, prepare yourself."

 

Evangeline quickly arose from her seat and said, "Here we go."

 

When Evangeline strolled into his office, there were no pleasantries exchanged between them. He merely instructed her to close the door behind her.

 

"Evangeline, what is this I'm hearing? You want to change teams?" His angry tone and the scowl on his face said much.

 

"I do, and that shouldn't be much of a surprise to you. Time and time again, I've raised my concerns with you over the past few months..."

 

"How easily you forget the important opportunity that I gave you on a very high profile case," Thomas countered.

 

Evangeline crossed her arms, mouth curved down into a frown. "Was that suppose to appease me? That I should return to my corner like a good little girl. Molly is a bully, and you allow her to get..."

 

"Evangeline, don't say another word." Evangeline held her peace and briefly stared at the ground. There was no getting through to Mr. Myers. "Whatever you are planning, I'm not going to allow it, and the partners will listen to me," he stated emphatically. He leaned against his desk, adjusting his jacket sleeves. "As I see it, you have two options, either you stay or walk away."

 

Evangeline gazed at him aghast. "Why are you doing this to me?"

 

"I should ask the same of you. You have only just worked here for so many months, and now you want to leave my team. You want to call the shots. How do you think that makes me look in front of everyone. So what's it going to be?"

 

"I guess I only have one choice. I appreciated the opportunity," she said, then turned and walked away. No one was going to back her into a corner where she didn't choose to be. She heard him calling after her, but refused to look back.

 

***

 

During the seemingly long walk to her office, she felt emotionally confused, hurt, and disappointed, but she didn't shed any tears. Upon her arrival, Tiffany followed her inside. The

office didn't feel like hers anymore. Soon she would start removing all those things that gave her a sense of comfort.

 

"Tiffany, could you please get me a box pack my stuff. Officially this is my last day at Shuster and Lewis."

 

Tiffany gasped, "You're leaving us?"

 

Evangeline solemnly nodded her head, lamenting, "I doubt I can get a job in this town again. Still, I'll miss you guys. With few exceptions, it has been great working here."

 

Tiffany said furiously, "Molly strikes again. She's to blame for this. She always gets her way. She did just enough to hinder you, causing this to happen." Evangeline gazed at her as she started pacing back and forth, then quite suddenly she stopped. "I know someone who can talk to the other partners on your behalf."

 

"Is that practical? After all, Mr. Myers is himself a partner and will have more sway with them more than anyone else, I believe."

 

"Not necessarily. Don't do anything drastic until I can get this moving. Molly is not going to win this time around."

 

***

 

"Viki, stop trailing after me," Victor said in an irritated voice.

 

"Victor, would you just listen."

 

He turned around and stated, "Why should I. You've crossed the line."

 

An incredulous Viki replied, "I did not!"

 

**

 

This intense discussion was taking place in Rourke's gym. Victor was doing his usual cardio workout when he caught sight of Viki and Jessica strolling out from an aerobics class. Jessica excused herself because she needed to pick up her daughter from a playdate while Viki stayed behind to speak with Victor. After the usual greetings, Viki inquired about his custody battle and where it stood. He informed her about Blair's offer.

 

"Wow, that's fantastic."

 

Viki was happily surprised, believing that Blair had finally made a positive change even though she was going through difficult times. She didn't bring up Todd's name, knowing Victor's aversion towards his brother. When Viki stirred the conversation into him having a relationship, that's when things became heated.

 

"I'm not interested in Lynn. Yeah, I like her as a friend but nothing otherwise. I'll let you in on a little secret I have feelings for someone else."

 

A perturbed Viki responded, "I can take two guesses as to the name of the said person - Evangeline Williamson. Point blank, she's not the right type of person for you..."

 

 

Present

 

That's the moment when Victor stormed off with Viki following closely behind.

 

"Why is it so hard for you to believe that a relationship between the two of us can't work out? You've always disliked her, and I can't understand why. You know what, I don't even care about your opinion on this certain subject. I'm a grown man capable of choosing the right woman for mine and Sam's life. I finally get who I am. I don't need anyone trying to control my life like I'm a lost soul."

 

"Okay, okay. Victor, answer me this question, what if she doesn't feel the same way? What will you do then?"

 

He leaned down slightly and hissed, "It's none of your business. I love you, sis, but you need to butt out."

 

A stunned Viki watched as Victor stormed off to the showers.

 

***

 

Victor removed the incident with Viki from his thoughts. There was somewhere he needed to be. He stood outside Blair's house, repeatedly knocking at her door. With the court order rendered, paperwork signed, and lawyers paid, today, Sam was officially coming home with him. Of course, Blair would have her time with him regarding visitation.

 

"Blair, open up!"

 

He was so excited to see Sam. An excitement he could barely contain. All his hard work, sobriety, and setting his life in order was finally paying off.

 

"Blair!"

 

"Alright! Alright! Coming! Coming!"When the door opened, she remarked, "Important much." Blair looked festive in a flowery, off-the-shoulder maxi dress.

 

"I'm here for Sam, remember."

 

"He's not here, Victor," she commented rather nonchalantly. She turned around and strolled into the living room.

 

"Blair, what's going on? We picked the date and time. I expected Sam to be ready." He was visibly agitated.

 

"Don't get upset. Jack took him for a little outing. They'll be back shortly, or you don't believe in them spending some time together."

 

"Of course, I don't mind, but Jack can see him whenever he wants to. It's not like I'm moving him halfway across the country."

 

"Look, Jack asked, and I agree. Do you want me to call him?"

 

Victor briefly reflected on it. "No, no. I can wait."

 

He seemed to calm down considerably, taking a seat on the sofa. Soon Blair went over to the stocked mini-bar and poured herself a drink.

 

Victor raised an eyebrow. "Isn't it a bit too early?"

 

"Considering the day, it's never too early."

 

She reminisced about her time with Sam, along with all the things she would miss since he won't be with her daily. She gulped down that drink then poured herself another. This time, however, she simply took a sip then sat down next to Victor.

 

"How long has it been since you've been here?"Victor gazed around, with his hands clasped together. "Quite a while ago."

 

The living room featured a whole new design, in addition to the furnishings being completely different.

 

"I hate how things ended between us."

 

Victor began feeling uncomfortable. He observed a look in her eyes - that look of wanting. She gulped down her remaining drink and again got up to pour herself another.

 

"Blair, you need to take it easy."

 

"Todd, you're telling me to take it easy."

 

Todd?

 

A warning signal began flashing bright red in his brain.

 

"We had eight wonderful years together. Then suddenly, you chose to walk away from the marriage without a good explanation."

 

Bright red! Immediately Victor went over to her and tried pulling the drink away, but she slapped him hard across the cheek.

 

He quickly backed away from her, massaging his reddened cheek. "You know what I'm going to find Jack and Sam. Where are they?"

 

Blair shrugged her shoulders and started weeping. "It's always her, always Evangeline." She slammed down her drink. "I gave you everything. You always go running after her!"

 

Victor panicked. He ran up the stairs, checking all the rooms. "Sam! Jack!"

 

His heart rate rose rapidly, and a cold chill came over him. He ran throughout the house, but there was no one else there. He quickly raced back over to Blair.

 

He grabbed her shoulders. "Did you do something to them?"

 

"Let me go!"

 

"Not until you tell me where my sons are."

 

"Todd, Ow, you're hurting me!"

 

Suddenly, Jack and Sam strolled in.

 

"Dad..."

 

"Sam!"

 

Sam immediately ran into his father's arms. Victor held him tightly, relieved, and grateful to finally see them both.

 

"Dad, why is your cheek so red? What's going on with mom?"

 

Blair leaned against the bar seemingly, unhinged, lost in her world.

 

"Jack, we need to talk."

 

***

 

For her peace of mind, Evangeline decided to leave the office. There was no use in sticking around. She didn't want to see or hear from anyone. It didn't seem appropriate. Whatever Tiffany was engineering, she could call her later with the details.

 

During the arduous elevator ride, she thought about calling Victor. She hated being so far away, yearning to talk to him face to face. He always knew the perfect things to say to make her feel better and how to make her laugh

in difficult times.

 

The elevators swung open on the ground floor, and she walked through to the lobby area. She was surprised to see Molly and Robert engrossed in an animated discussion in a corner. She stood by quietly, observing the interplay between the two. To say she was surprised would be a lie. Everything about Robert's actions was highly suspicious. Soon he caught sight of her and quickly bolted.

 

Evangeline shook her head in disgust and said, "What a tangled web we weave..."

 

Molly turned towards her. "Oh, it's you. What, no box?" Molly asked with a straight face."Why are you asking?" an irritated Evangeline questioned. She tightly gripped the strap of her purse, doing her best to remain civil.

 

"Well, there is just this rumor going around that you're leaving Shuster and Lewis..."

 

"Humph, it could be then again it could not."

 

"We'll all learn soon enough. Whatever the case, it's certainly been a pleasure."

 

"The pleasure was never mine. Molly, the war is not quite over yet; remember that."

 

A sly smile was etched on Molly's face as she watched Evangeline hurry away.

End Notes:

Chapter 10 by chocolate470

When Victor and Sam arrived at Llanfair, Jessica opened the door taking note that her uncle seemed and looked a bit out of sorts. He dressed neatly enough in a navy blue blazer, light-blue dress shirt, and black denim jeans. On the other hand, he appeared both physically and mentally drained. His countenance told the story of someone who hadn't gotten enough sleep along with his unkempt hair. For the moment, Jessica ignored the obvious.

 

"Hey Sam, are you ready to hang out with your Cousin Bree."

 

"Yes, Cousin Jessica."

 

Jessica held out her hand, and Sam took hold of it. "Come on, Bree is waiting in the backyard."

 

Some of the backyard features included a treehouse, zipline, swing set, and a climbing wall. There was a lot to keep the kids occupied without touching an iPad. The excited look on Sam's face said he was indeed happy to be there.

 

"Bye, dad."

 

Victor embraced him, then advised, "Be good for your cousins."

 

"I will."

 

He briefly watched them leave before bolting for the kitchen to pour himself a much-needed cup of coffee. He always felt that Lisa made the best cup of coffee in all of Llanview.

 

"Hmmm, this tastes so good."

 

"Why did I know I would find you in here?"

 

"How are the kids getting along?"

 

"They are getting along great so far."

 

"Is Viki around?"

 

"No, she's actually out of town for business."

 

"Good."

 

Jessica sighed deeply. "I hope that this chasm between you two will end sooner rather than later."

Victor took another sip of his coffee. "As long as she stays out of my personal life, we will be fine. She treats me like her kid like I always need assistance tying my shoelaces or wiping my snot."

 

Jessica chuckled at his concept. "Mom can be controlling at times. Yet I do recognize that she wants what's best for all of us."

 

"We were born into a dysfunctional family. Viki cannot make our crooked straight. We need to want to do it for ourselves."

 

"Okay," Jessica sighed, "Enough about mom. What's going on with you?" She sat down next to him around the kitchen island.

 

Victor scratched his chin. "I was assisting Jack with Blair."

 

Jessica instantly protested. "Why? She has Dorian, Starr..."

 

"It's not only about Blair. I'm worried about my sons well being as well. Jack asked me to help out, and I did as much as I could. Then there is Sam, who occasionally sleeps with me. Let's just say that his movements keep me up at night."

 

Soon Victor became mesmerized with a painting on the wall in front of him. It was of a Victorian-era family seated around a dining room table, eating and engaged in conversation. "One day, Sam asked me about Blair. I knew he would ask. I told him that everything was going to be alright. Blair still cares for him, but she is just not herself at the moment. She's getting the help she needs to be well again. Thankfully, he has accepted that explanation for the most part."

 

"I guess he is also worried about you disappearing as well."

 

"Yeah, he has been through so much in his short life. I want to ease his mind anyway I can."

 

"I get what you are saying, but I also care for you very much. I don't want you to get sucked back into another Blair drama. You know how she can be. It's like you can't move on with your life."

 

"Jessica, believe me when I say that I've set my boundaries. Jack knows there is only so much I want to do. I've been down that road far too many times, not stay out of it. Besides, Dorian and Starr have stepped in."

 

"And what about Uncle Todd?" She almost regretted asking.

 

"Your guess is as good as mine, not my concern."

 

Victor took his last gulp of coffee, stood up, then began walking out.

 

"I just can't believe you are working today."

 

"I have a deadline to meet, and time is not on my side," Victor remarked over his shoulder. "I'm writing a book."

 

Jessica couldn't believe her ears. "What! When was I going to hear about this?"

 

Suddenly, he spun around. "Like now. Jessica, you tend to let things slip out around Viki."

 

Jessica pursed her lips together. She didn't disagree with Victor's assessment. "So you won't tell me the book's title?"

 

"Honestly, I'm still working on it."

 

"How about dibs on a first interview?"

 

"Deal. One more thing, will you still be able to take Sam next weekend?"

 

"Of course and say hey to Evangeline while you there in Washington," she said with a knowing smile.

 

Victor smiled back at her. "I will be there to take care of some business as well."

 

"You mean your book deal."

 

He smiled but soon stifled a yawn. "Gotta run. I'll call you guys later."

 

"Take care, Uncle Victor."

 

 

 

"Not you too, Tina."

 

While almost arriving at his office door, he caught Tina eyeing him strangely.

"First Paulie, then Jessica, and now you. I get that I look like crap. I promise to look better next time."

 

"I don't know what you're talking about," she replied, grabbing a couple of file folders.

 

Victor shook his head, then said, "I hope you've got the good coffee brewing."

 

"I'll bring you a cup soon enough. ...Victor, hold on for a moment, I have a suggestion."

 

"Go on."

 

"Since you're going to Washington to sign off on this book deal, why not ask Evangeline to look over the draft contract. She's a lawyer, and I know you value her opinion."

 

Victor stood quietly, wondering why he hadn't thought about this before. "That's a great suggestion," he grudgingly admitted.

 

"Does that mean I'm getting extra?" she asked expectantly.

 

"Possibly, possibly," he replied while walking away. The idea kept rolling over in his mind.

 

 

By the middle of the morning, a visitor stopped by the office. At first, Tina was a bit startled to see someone other than Paul stepping through the elevator doors.

 

"Evangeline, you almost gave me a heart attack," she said, taking a deep breath.

 

"I'm sorry, Tina. Paul must have neglected to call you."

 

"Or believed that we were expecting you to come. It's certainly a surprise to see you, and you come bearing gifts as well." She spied the white foodservice bag in her right hand.

 

"Oh, it's just some sandwiches, fruit and danish."

 

"Wow, Ms. Williamson, you know how to impress."

 

"Well, I've been trying to reach Victor over the phone, but he hasn't been picking up. I finally deduced that he must be at the office trying to meet his deadline. Of course, you guys would be here with him as well."

 

"Thanks for thinking of all of us. Victor must have mistakenly turned off his phone. You can go on in. I'm sure he will be happy to see you, but I must warn you that he's not himself today."

 

"Deadlines can do that to you."

 

"Among other things," Tina commented underneath her breath.

 

 

When Evangeline stepped inside his office, she could see that he was fully concentrating on the laptop screen, with the sound of his fingers tapping away on the keyboard. She has been there and done that.

 

"What is it, Tina?" he questioned without looking up.

 

She tossed her purse on one of the side chairs. "And here I thought that the scent of my perfume..." 

 

"Evangeline!" Victor's head popped up at once. He quickly ran up and pulled her into a long embrace. "I'm so happy to see you." He gave her a chaste kiss and hugged her again. "Why didn't you tell me that you were coming?"

 

"I tried, but your phone kept going to voicemail."

 

Victor smacked his forehead hard. "So it's glaringly my fault. Sorry about that."

 

"My unanswered calls didn't deter me, however. I just had to figure out where you could be, so all is forgiven." Evangeline gave him a brief once over. "Humph, you do look like crap."

 

"Did Tina open her big mouth?"

 

"Only to give me a heads up." Evangeline dug around in her bag and found a pocket comb. Evangeline did her best to tame his wild tresses. "Someone looking in from the outside would say that you're taking on too much. I say that you are doing an excellent job. I'm so proud of you."

 

"Thanks," he replied with a boyish grin. "I'm glad you've always believed in me."

 

"And I always will." Evangeline completed her task and said, "There, that is much better."

 

"See, your visit is already proving beneficial for me."

 

"Thanks." She stared deeply into his eyes. "Don't overdo it, okay.""I promise you I won't. Evangeline, I have something to ask of you?"

 

"Okay."

 

"I would love for you to go over my book contract. Of course, it all depends on how much time you have to spare."

 

"I'll make the time just email me a copy."

 

"Standard fee?" he asked with a smile.

 

"Dinner would suffice."

 

"Coq Au Vin."

 

Evangeline beamed at the suggestion. "You remembered my favorite dish."

 

"Always. Hey, let's sit down." Both plopped down unto the plush sofa. "It's nice seeing you, but what brings you here when you knew I was coming to Washington next weekend? Is something wrong?"

 

"It's work. My supervisor placed me in an untenable position."

 

"But knowing you as I do, you would rather walk away."

 

"Right. You also know how much I love this job. No one is going to put Baby in a corner." They both chuckled and leaned their foreheads together.

 

"Can I help?"

 

"Not this time around. Just seeing and talking to you has helped a great deal. Sometimes a phone call doesn't cut it." She laid her head on his shoulder, and he wrapped an arm around her. "I truly hope that I'm not interrupting your work. Laying my problems on your doorstep when you have a full plate."

 

"Anything for you, Evangeline," he remarked, kissing her temple. "You are one of the most important people in my life next to Sam. There isn't anything I wouldn't do for you," he softly said.  

 

"Anything for me," she whispered against his chest more to herself. She took in a breath. Finally, she was able to take her mind off troubles at work and started to relax. Being this close to Victor meant so much. Their situation became much clearer.

 

Her thoughts had been here before, but over the years, she chose to distance her mind from such possibilities. It was safer that way. There was too much upheaval going on in both their lives for it to have worked out.

 

But what about now?

 

"This is where I want to be - in your arms. Of course, you made the first move, and it very much surprised me. It's difficult when it's your best friend. You don't want to ruin that part of the relationship built over time through blood, sweat, and tears. You know I'm very analytical. I have weighed the pros and cons, and you know what, who cares. You and I are a perfect match."

 

She paused, waiting for a response, but none was forthcoming because Victor had quietly fallen asleep. She chuckled to herself.

 

"So, this is what gets you to slow down." She briefly stared at him. Behind those handsome features was a supportive, compassionate man who understood her needs. She leaned over and pressed her lips softly against his. "Sweet dreams. We'll have this conversation soon enough."

 

Even if she wanted to stay, it wasn't possible. A meeting with the partners of S & L lay ahead. This trip to Llanview was an opportunity to rejuvenate her mind and soul. Victor helped her accomplish both.

Chapter 11 by chocolate470

Just an hour after the formal lunchtime, this important meeting was presided over by three of the most senior partners: Gary Stephens, Sheila Hemsley, and Blake Thurton, employed at S&L for over thirty years. For them, these types of disagreements were nothing new. They aimed to resolve such matters quickly. Any amount of time spent away from clients costs money.

 

The meeting room was smaller than the much larger conference rooms. It provided an intimate setting with a seating capacity for six individuals in addition to a projector and whiteboard. The outward tilted slats of the Venetian blinds allowed enough lighting to stream through. A small bookcase and modern art lay against the adjacent walls. Both Evangeline and Thomas dressed impeccably for the awkward occasion, keenly aware of first impressions.

 

Evangeline went into a speech detailing why she felt compelled to transfer over to another team. Mr. Myers' welcoming attitude suddenly turned as the months went by and his lack of support affected her sense of comfort within the team's dynamic. Thomas countered that a junior associate shouldn't have the privilege of making such decisions, given that her immediate superior bore that decision alone. Only he understood the inner workings of his team. Evangeline's sense of discomfort may be associated with her lack of experience or her superiority complex after having a hand in winning their high-profile case. He had been at this for several years, earning distinction through hard work and dedication to the firm's ideals.

 

Evangeline shook her head at the personal attacks on her character. The partners took notes and listened keenly. They carefully jotted down notes here and there, their faces betraying no emotion one way or the other. 

 

"How can I remain within an environment whereby Mr. Myer's requests, demeanor, and actions suppress my development. He cares more for Ms. Akord's needs than the others within the team."

 

"I object!"

 

"We are not in a courtroom setting, Thomas," Blake reminded in his baritone voice. "Is Ms. Akord the reason that we find ourselves in this position?" The partners shared a knowing look between themselves.

 

"Ms. Akord is not a team player," Evangeline emphatically stated. "She is more focused on things outside of the team. She is not doing her fair share in assisting us on these big cases."

 

"I don't see it that way. I'm the person in charge with much of the responsibility. Ms. Akord is more than a capable lawyer who has honed her skills brilliantly over her years at the firm."

 

"It seems Ms. Akord has a habit of interfering with your team's development," Sheila chimed in. 

 

"Sheila, that's not true! Things have happened here and there but, it has never come to my attention until now. My team has always been one of the firm's top performers..."

 

"That's Enough!" Gary interjected. "This wasn't meant to be a long back and forth session." Thomas sighed and settled in his chair. "Ms. Williamson, we will need to have a private conference with Mr. Myers, so could you please excuse us." 

 

"We also promise to meet with you once we've reached an appropriate outcome."

 

"Please remain in your team's office for the time being."

 

After closing the door behind her, she exhaled. There were too many scenarios mentally circulating, and she needed to take a break. Inevitably, she came across Molly, who was conveniently walking down the office corridor.

 

"Evangeline..."

 

"Molly...What is it that you want? I'm not in the mood for wordplay."

 

"Just a small word of advice..." 

 

Evangeline responded by crossing her arms and rolling her eyes, yet she remained rooted in place. "Speak..."

 

"Look, take it if you want," she replied irritatingly. "Llanview is a small community."

 

"So?"

 

"So you're in the big leagues now, and one false move may blow apart your future ambitions in this field. You don't see much on the surface, but beneath, a lot is going on, so be careful." She turned then strolled away.

 

When the click-clack of Molly's high heels slowly faded in the distance, only then did Evangeline move on to the team's office. Indeed her words provided food for thought, even if she hated to admit it. This entire process made her feel naive. She hadn't done her homework or strategized as she would for any one of her clients. Could you say, let the chips fall where they may?

 

 

Meanwhile

 

"I can't believe that you allowed Evangeline to leave while I was still asleep," Victor muttered as he handed Tina a file folder.

Tina hit back, "When I saw Evangeline, she said she had to prepare for an important meeting back in Washington, so it wasn't as if she was sticking around. Besides, I wasn't in tune with your prior conversation or its importance. Now can I please get back to earning my keep?"

 

"Fine, go...," he said, waving his right hand. 

 

He hated that he could only recall bits and pieces of their conversation. However, Evangeline appeared to be very preoccupied with whatever was going on at S&L. Todd Manning would be blowing up her phone right now. He wasn't Todd Manning.

 

"Weren't you going to Washington next weekend?" Tina asked from over her shoulder.

 

"I thought so, but things happen. It doesn't help that my book title sounds like crap. I've hired a literary agent to take care of much of this stuff."

 

"Humph...I hope that's not an omen," she remarked beneath her breath.

 

"What's that?"

 

"I wonder did Evangeline offer that suggestion?"

 

"Yeah, yeah, she said it would make my life much easier."

 

"Hey...Lynn, what are you doing here?" A surprised Tina asked as she opened the door.

 

"Just running an errand for Viki, and since I was in the area..."

 

"You decided to visit my boss. I hope you are not the go-between for those two. Sometimes the messenger gets burned and not in a good spot."

 

Lynn always looked like your average girl next door. Today she wore a floral midi dress with black wedge heel sandals, minimal makeup, and tresses hung loosely around her shoulders.

 

"Well, I haven't felt the heat as yet. I don't like it when these two behave this way," she whispered.

Tina wondered if Lynn was for real. Everyone knew the family always acted this way. "Don't worry about it," she said, patting her shoulder. "It usually works itself out in the end."

 

 

"Lynn? What are you doing here?" Victor asked with a smile on his face, rising from his seat. 

 

"Hey, Victor. I haven't seen you around lately, and the way Viki is acting, I figured something was up."

 

"Viki can be a pain in you know what, but that doesn't mean I don't love her. Sometimes we need a break from each other, or else things start going down a long rabbit hole."

 

 "Here, I've brought you a couple of turkey sandwiches." She offered him a brown bag.

 

"You know me too well. I'm famished, so thanks."

 

Lynn sat down on the sofa while Victor sat at the edge of his desk.

 

"Aren't you going to eat your sandwiches?"

 

"In a little while. Is there something else on your mind?"

 

"How is Sam? I've heard about Blair. It must be rough on him."

 

"He's doing as well as can be expected for a kid."

 

Sam was never too far from his thoughts. Blair remained at St. Ann's, and he had allowed the two to speak over the phone a couple of times.

 

"Has he been asking a lot of questions?"

 

"No, which is a good sign." Sam had also returned to his room which made Victor sense that he was accepting the situation and believing that Blair was getting better. "Thanks for asking." 

 

There was a pause in their conversation. Victor didn't feel comfortable going into specifics about Sam. It almost seemed strange that she was asking, but then again, they were casual friends. Being that he never had a friend except for Evangeline, of course, he was still learning.

 

Lynn cleared her throat. "My friend, her kids, and I are going bowling this Saturday. You and Sam can join us if you like."

 

"I'll think about it, then give you a call." 

 

Suddenly Lynn's cell came to life. "Hello."

 

"Lynn, are you finished with your errand. I need you to come back to the office."

 

"Okay, I'm on my way."

 

"Looks like I need to get back."

 

"Thanks for dropping by," he said as he escorted her to the door.

 

"I'll hopefully see you soon."

 

After Lynn left, Tina couldn't help but gaze at Victor's office door. "Well, Victor, you've certainly got a full plate plus a side dish of salad."

 

 

Evangeline spun the pen over and over between her fingers. She was staring at nothing particular on the computer screen. Molly's unsolicited advice affected her mood, and it made her mentally replay everything that led up to this point.

 

"Huh!" She let out a loud sigh and threw the pen on the desk. The pen slowly rolled off the desk and onto the floor.

 

"Evangeline, you can't keep doing this to yourself," Ethan said.

 

"My career may have been affected from this point forward."

 

"Or maybe not. I'll admit Thomas carries a lot of influence at this firm and elsewhere, but the partners have a greater standing than he does."

 

"And they are more on his side than mine. I'm generally new to this world, just starting to make a name for myself. I'm on the first rung of this ladder. Oh, why did I not see that requesting a simple transfer could mean so much more? I need those partners on my side..." 

 

 

"Evangeline...." Tiffany interrupted. "Mr. Stephens would like to speak with you in his office."

"Okay."

 

 

Fifteen minutes later and Evangeline's world appeared upside down in a way. While neither party got what they wanted, Evangeline's stipulation came with a caveat. She needed to take a moment to collect her thoughts. 

 

"And what if I chose to walk away?"

 

"Of course, it is your right. You know there are consequences to this. Is going to Phoenix for a few months so bad?"

 

S&L had an office based in Arizona. They had offices situated in states where many of their clients' businesses are based. Still, Arizona was not Washington. The clients, prestige, money - all would be affected.

 

Gary and Evangeline stood facing one another by the sliding glass window. It didn't seem fair to her, but what was acceptable in their world? And what of his sanction, she would never know.

 

"It's not, but what about my clients?"

 

"Thomas would need to take care of that. Evangeline, you are an amazing lawyer, but there are enough egos and narcissistic personalities within this firm that it should come with a warning - join us at your own risk. It's a political high stake game."

 

Evangeline's eyes stared at him with new clarity. "It seems that you don't agree with all that's going on. Why do you choose to stay?"

 

"Why?" Gary reflected. "There are only so many of us, and I wanted to be an exception to the rule. Accomplish as much as I could so others see that it doesn't need to be this way. And yet, it will always be this way. I try my best to be the voice of reason, especially when these disagreements come up from time to time. Being a top lawyer not only means navigating your client's needs but also your own. Law firms' politics are brutal, but once you've learned to play the game, anything is possible even if you choose to walk away - you will be protected."

 

There was a knock at the door. "Excuse me..." Gary went to see who it was.

 

"Oh, Ms. Davis, please come on in."

 

"Ellen?" Evangeline turned to see her confidant, surprised at her presence. "What are you doing here?"

 

"Ms. Davis will be going to Arizona."

 

"You won't be alone."

 

 

Later on, when she contacted Victor, she got blindsided by his reaction to her leaving.

 

"It's just a few months. Why is it such a big deal?"

 

"It's like whatever we are attempting to accomplish always gets put on hold. Evangeline, a lot can happen in a few months."

 

She sensed and appreciated his frustration about the situation, but this was about her life. This time around, she needed his support.

 

"Why can't you understand that I need to do this to save my career and future endeavors. I'm not doing this to run away from us."

 

"You could have fooled me, Evangeline. It's like we don't fit anywhere, anytime."

 

Evangeline let out a frustrated sigh. Perhaps they should have talked face to face but time wasn't on her side.

 

"Let's take a break, Victor. It's best for the both of us."

 

"Fine. I agree."

 

She heard a click and knew he had hung up on her. She briefly stared at her phone. An already stressful day turned worst in the evening. Finally, she gazed out her window wishing upon a lonely star in the sky. No, she didn't believe it was the end of what their relationship would be, but she had to let it go for now. 

 

 

TO BE CONTINUED......

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