“I just think that he deserves more than I can give him,” Oliver said. Picking up Beast’s cage, he carried it outside and set it in the backyard. Tomorrow he’d take it to the dump, but for right now, he just needed it out of his sight.
When he came back through the door, Eve was rummaging through his cupboards.
“What are you looking for?” he asked.
“A bucket and floor cleaner, so I can mop up the . . . blood,” she said.
“There’s no bucket, but the cleaning supplies are under the sink,” he said.
Eve bent out of sight and popped back up with a bottle in her hand. She set it on the counter and walked over to him, wrapping her arms around his waist.
“Look, I know tonight was scary, but I’ve seen you with him. I’ve heard the way you talk about him. You love him. That’s all he needs. He’s not going to get better than that, anywhere.”
Oliver wished he could agree with her, but he was completely out of his depth here.
“The dog’s not really mine anyway,” Oliver said. “I’m supposed to be training him to be a military dog, which means he’ll go from me to someone else, but after this, Best probably will need to replace him.”
Eve tipped her face up. “So adopt him.”
“If he’s not in the program, I highly doubt Best is going to let me cart him back and forth to the facility, and besides, what happens when I go back to full MP duty?” Oliver shook his head, wondering how he’d never thought of this before. “This was supposed to be a temporary thing.”
Eve pulled away, and Oliver could sense her hurt even without words.
“What did I say?” he asked.
Eve didn’t answer. Frustrated, Oliver took her shoulders in his hands and turned her to face him again, but she avoided his gaze. “Hey, answer me.”
But still she said nothing, and he felt his frayed nerves unraveling.
“Eve, what in the hell is the matter with you? I am in no mood to play games right now.”
“Okay, fine,” she said, her green eyes blazing up at him finally. “When you were talking about this only being temporary, did you mean the job, Beast, or—by extension—were you talking about me?”
“Of course I wasn’t talking about you,” he snapped.
“So, it was the job, then,” she said. “When you get back to your real job, what hours do you usually work?”
Oliver didn’t like where this was going but he wasn’t going to avoid it, either. “The night shift, but depending on what we’re working on, the hours can be longer.”
“And is your job dangerous?”
It was a trick question, and he knew any way he answered it, he was screwed. “I’m a police officer on a military base where everyone has a gun. Depending on the call, yeah, my job can be dangerous.”
“And what about being deployed? Could that happen?”
“You know it could.” Oliver softened his voice and ran his hands over her shoulders, willing her to understand and accept him. All of him. “You grew up with a dad in the military. You know I can get a new post at any time; if there’s a war, I can be deployed, and yes, if I take the wrong call on the wrong night, I could be dealing with a scary situation, but that’s not going to stop me from doing my job, Eve. I’m good at it.”
“I know,” Eve said. “I knew that before you said the words, but I ignored it for a little while because despite my better judgment, I do like you. But it isn’t just one bad experience that has kept me from dating guys like you. I want a guy who is safe, who is going to be home with me at night to eat dinner and watch TV. I don’t want to get involved with a guy I might not see for years on end or who might not come home because he has to deal with dangerous situations all day. For a moment there, I thought I could put all those things aside because I liked you, but I still want a normal, safe life.”
Oliver released her shoulders, squeezing his hands into tight fists at his side. “A normal, safe guy could die in a car crash.”
“That would be horribly tragic, but he wouldn’t be putting himself in harm’s way daily or be separated from me. I’m afraid that if I keep letting myself get close to you, I’m going to forget that I don’t want these things because I’ll want you more.”
Hope swept through Oliver at her words, and he wished he knew the right thing to make her understand that this was who he was. He helped people, and there was nothing wrong with that. He could still have it all; they could still spend time together. Their schedules just might be a little different than those of other couples.
“Come on, Eve, we’ve had a rough night—”
“And after one rough night you give up on Beast without even putting up a fight. Kinda says a lot about how much you value your relationships,” she said.