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Oliver couldn’t even believe he was saying this, but he felt every word in his gut and knew it was true. He was willing to fight for Eve. She was worth it.

“Honestly?” A sheepish grin broke under the general’s salt and pepper mustache. “I thought she’d run you off the first day.”

“She tried, but I’m stubborn. I don’t give up easily, and if I have to, I can go over your head, sir,” Oliver said.

His words wiped the smile from the general’s face. “And I could have you transferred to another base, and then this conversation would be moot.” The general stood up and said, “I’m giving you an out, Sergeant Martinez. I expect you to take it. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to be somewhere.”

The dismissive certainty in the general’s order filled Oliver with impotent rage, as if it had never crossed the general’s mind that Oliver would really go against him. Oliver exited the office, frustration vibrating through his muscles.

But it wasn’t just that the general didn’t believe that he’d fight for Eve. What if he was right that Oliver would just end up as one of Eve’s regrets?

Damn it, he wasn’t this guy, ruled by what-ifs and insecurities. He jumped in and went after what he wanted, yet here he was, debating and hee-hawing like an asshole.

He wanted to punch something, bust his fist through something hard and fleshy.

As he crossed the base back to his car, Tate and Andy, the man who had hurt Eve all those years ago, were coming out of one of the buildings. Tate waved, and although Oliver tried to ignore them, they intercepted him.

“Hey, Martinez, when you coming back for good?” Tate asked.

“Next week, apparently.”

“That’s great!” Tate slapped Oliver on the shoulder and lowered his voice, “Hey, man, I gotta ask . . . What was it like to do Reynolds’s daughter? Because Andy here, he never got farther than second base, and I’m just thinking—”

Oliver didn’t even remember attacking Tate. It was like a cloud of black and red swirled around him as he took the other man to the ground and threw a fist that shattered the bones and tissue under his knuckles. Oliver was oblivious to Tate’s groan and the sound of gurgling, even Andy’s faint shouts and arms grabbing at him, trying to drag him off. Oliver reached behind him, catching Andy was by the waist, and tossed him over his shoulder.

Finally, Oliver was slammed to the ground, pinned by Andy’s heavy weight. As Andy jerked his arms behind his back, he felt a flash of stinging pain and realized Tate was kicking him in the ribs. The cloud evaporated, and Oliver grunted as another kick caught him in the midsection before he was pulled to his feet.

“Stupid asshole.” Tate spat at him, his face covered in blood and his nose bent and swollen. “You are fucking screwed.”

Just as Tate looked like he was going to make a move again, Andy snapped, “Just leave it, Tate. The last

thing we need is the general getting involved and asking questions. Something tells me Oliver here won’t mind repeating everything you said about his darling Eve.”

Oliver glowered at Tate as he wiped off his face and gave Oliver a feral smile. “Man, Martinez, if she’s that good of a piece of ass, I might just try her out myself.”

“You’re not her type, Tate. She doesn’t go for pussies.”

Tate’s fist swung, and Oliver heard a cracking sound as it met his cheek. And then everything went black.

EVE SAT ACROSS from her mother, squinting her eyes at the menu. “Did we have to sit outside? The sun is hurting my eyes.”

Her mother looked up from stirring her coffee, her green eyes worried. Eve had inherited her eyes, nose, and mouth, but the rest of her genetic makeup came from her father’s side of the family. She wished sometimes that she’d been more of the natural beauty her mother was, but life was too short for comparisons. She did hope she got her mother’s youthful skin as she aged. Although she was in her late fifties, her mother looked much younger.

“You poor baby, did you take any Tylenol? I don’t know how many times I’ve warned you about having more than one glass of wine before bed.”

Eve shot her mother a glare. “Sympathy and an I-told-you-so in one sentence? Congratulations, Mom, your attempt to make me feel better has failed.”

“Are you going to tell me what brought on this late-night bender?”

Eve debated on confiding in her about Oliver, but considering her mother had been the one to sway her away from military men in the first place, Eve doubted she would feel much sympathy.

“I just had a rough couple of weeks, that’s all,” she said.

“Is it this charity event your father asked you to organize? I told him that you’re serious about this PR company and don’t need the extra stress of pro bono work when you’re just starting out. Really, you should be getting paid for everything you’re doing for them.”

“No, it’s been fine and a great way to get my name out there. I just . . . ”

Ah, to hell with it. She needed to talk to someone. “Mom, I know you didn’t want me joining or marrying into the military, but have you honestly ever regretted marrying Dad?”