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That glimmer of hope was snuffed out by a blaze of fury that tightened every muscle in his body and burned across his skin.

“Are you actually comparing the way I feel about you to my connection with a dog?”

“No, God, I don’t know. Okay?” With a heavy sigh, she pushed past him toward the door, but he was too exhausted to follow.

Chapter Nine

OLIVER STOOD IN Sparks’s office the next morning, spoiling for a fight. Between worrying about Beast and being frustrated by Eve’s attitude, he’d hardly slept at all last night. Most women would’ve been wetting themselves, calling him a hero, but he’d managed to fall for the one woman who actually looked at his dedication to his job and country as a drawback. And now, he had to fight to keep Beast.

“I don’t give a fuck what you think, he’s not going back to the shelter,” Oliver said roughly.

“I didn’t say he had to go back to the shelter,” Sparks said.

“But he can’t be in the program,” Best added, earning a threatening look from Oliver. Best threw his hands up in a don’t-shoot-the-messenger gesture. “I’m just saying that these dogs go through so much, it wouldn’t work for him. It doesn’t mean we can’t find him a good home.”

“As long as I can bring him to work with me, I’d like to keep him,” Oliver said.

“What happens when you get put back on patrol?” Sparks asked.

“That’s another thing I’d like to discuss. If you have somewhere you can use me, mentoring, or running social media, or hell, scooping dog shit, I’m in.” He could tell he’d surprised Sparks and Best, but the idea had been rolling around in his mind all night. He could provide a home for Beast. Besides, he actually enjoyed working with the kids, and although he had never considered himself the mentoring type, he’d enjoyed spending time with Tommy, Darrel, and Jorge.

Even if he wasn’t upholding the law, he was helping people. That was all he’d ever wanted to do.

And maybe Eve would consider being with you if your job was less dangerous?

Oliver told himself his decision had nothing to do with her, but it definitely felt like a lie. The truth was, while he’d been lying awake last night, he’d pictured his future. He hadn’t been surrounded by medals and trophies. He’d been sitting in the living room of his house, watching TV, and then suddenly, a woman sat down

in his lap and handed him a beer.

That woman had been Eve.

Best and Sparks exchanged heavy glances, and Oliver gritted his teeth. “What? You think I’m a bad fit?”

“No, but we just want to make sure this is really what you want,” Sparks said.

“Yeah, it is.”

“Then I hope you don’t mind working with the MP and police dogs we’re training,” Best said. “I’ll go order one of those full-body attack training suits for you.” Best clapped him on the back on his way out of Sparks’s office.

Oliver kicked out at Best as he left, but Best dodged his boot with a laugh.

And then it was just him and Sparks.

“You know you’re going to have to talk with General Reynolds about making your position permanent.”

“Yeah, I know,” Oliver said grimly. “That’s my next stop. I made an appointment at eleven.”

Dean raised his eyebrows. “You were that sure we were going to want to stare at your ugly mug every day?”

“I was banking on it,” Oliver said.

EVE’S HEAD WAS hammering. Whether it was from the total lack of sleep or the half a bottle of wine she’d downed when she’d gotten home, she wasn’t sure. Even Matilda’s cries to be fed were earsplitting, and Eve covered her head with a pillow to block out the noise.

Suddenly, she felt Matilda jump up onto the bed and step on her legs before sitting on the small of Eve’s back. Tiny, bony paws kneaded her back, and Eve winced as Matilda’s sharp claws broke through her T-shirt, scraping her skin.

“Okay, ow, I’m up,” Eve said, squirming. Matilda jumped off her back, and when Eve turned onto her side and lifted the pillow, Matilda was staring back at her with a bored expression on the white mask of her face, her tail twitching back and forth like a black snake.

“You are a mean cat. I scoop your poop, give you fresh water, and feed you more than I should, and you can’t let me sleep ten extra minutes?”

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