“Rouw,” Matilda answered.
“I guess that’s a no,” Eve said. She sat up slowly, clutching her head with one hand and groaning. “No more wine, ever.”
Grabbing her glasses off of her nightstand, she finally got to her feet and padded to the bathroom, unpleasant flashes of last night assaulted her. The most haunting of which was the expression on Oliver’s face when she’d basically told him that she didn’t want him. For such a big, hard guy, he’d looked so sad, so lost. She’d sat in her car for a while, debating whether she should get out and apologize or get the hell out of there. In the end, she’d driven home and regretted every mile, every minute that put distance between her and Oliver.
But what was she supposed to do? Put aside her principles because she liked him? What happened when it all went to hell and she was looking back, thinking to herself, I knew I shouldn’t have done that?
The shrill blare of “Mamma Mia” exploded from her bedroom, and she stumbled out of the bathroom to answer her cell.
“Hey, Mom,” she said.
“Hello, Sweetie, you sound terrible. Are you sick?” her mother asked.
“Nope, just hungover,” Eve said.
“Oh, well in that case, take a shower and come meet me for lunch.”
The thought of food sent her stomach into a churning ball of protest. “I’m not really hungry.”
“You will be, and besides, we haven’t had a mother-daughter day in a while, and I want a chance to catch up. It’s hard being an empty nester.”
The guilt trip worked like a charm. “Okay, where do you want to meet?”
OLIVER SAT IN the general’s office, admiring his framed metals and pictures, but there was one on his desk that made him sit forward. Picking up the old wooden frame, Oliver smiled at a younger version of the general dancing with a little girl with black curls and a red flowing dress.
“Have you ever heard the phrase ‘look but don’t touch’?” a deep voice said behind him.
Oliver set the picture back on the general’s desk and stood up, saluting him. “I apologize, sir.”
“At ease.” General Reynolds was in good physical shape for his age, and despite being several inches shorter than Oliver, he was still an imposing figure. The general sat down and waved his hand to the chair behind Oliver, indicating he should sit, too. “What is it I can do for you, Sergeant Martinez?”
Oliver sat and ran his hands over his legs nervously, wiping his sweaty palms on his pants. “I wanted to talk to you about staying on at Alpha Dog, sir. I’ve enjoyed my time there and would like to continue, instead of returning to my unit.”
“I see,” the general said. “And have you also enjoyed working with my daughter, Sergeant Martinez?”
What does Eve have to do with this? Oliver didn’t know what Eve had told him, but he treaded lightly. “I have, sir. She is a wonderful woman, and you should be proud of her, but she has nothing to do with my decision to stay on. I enjoy working with the kids and the dogs and feel like I can make a difference there. And they have a spot for me.”
“You say that she has nothing to do with your decision to stay on, but I find that hard to believe. Don’t think I haven’t noticed the way she talks about you.”
She talks about me with her family? Oliver smothered his excitement as the general added, “And I am proud of her, most definitely. I am also very protective of her and do not want to see her hurt.”
“That’s the last thing I want as well, sir.”
“Then you understand why I’m denying your request and transferring you back to active MP rotation first thing Tuesday morning. That should give you a long weekend to readjust.”
The general’s blunt announcement took him completely by surprise. “Sir, do you really think that putting me back in rotation will keep me away from her?”
“I know my daughter, Sergeant Martinez. Right now, you’re accessible, but that will change,” the general said. “Evelyn has never been shy about her opinions and desires for what she wants out of life, and I can guarantee you that you are not her future.”
“You don’t know that,” Oliver said, forgetting himself and who he was talking to.
The general ignored his outburst, though. “It’s my fault, really. I let my emotions get the better of me and wanted to teach you a lesson. Instead, I put my daughter in a position of vulnerability, and you took full advantage. I am willing to overlook your infraction and put you back where you belong, no harm, no foul.”
“I never took advantage of Evelyn. What is between us has nothing to do with you and everything to do with her amazing spirit. I’m not giving up on her.”
“Son, my daughter has plans for her life that do not include you. Whatever you think you feel for Eve, if you really cared, you’d let her go.” The general’s tone wasn’t condescending or hostile; in fact, he sounded a little sad. “Men like you and I live our jobs. If I give you this position, you might be satisfied for a month or so, but then you’re going to get antsy, and the urge for more is going to get stronger. You want to climb the ladder—I’ve read your file—and that requires long hours and a lot of sacrifice. And I don’t want that for my daughter.”
“You know her,” Oliver said. “How could you put us together and never imagine I would fall for her?”