Her mother paused with the coffee cup at her lips, then took a sip, as if considering what she was going to say. “No, Evie, I’ve never regretted marrying your father or the life we built. And it’s not that I don’t want you marrying into the military, that’s more your father. I just saw the way that boy hurt you, and I honestly thought you were too young to get serious with anyone. Especially men in the military, who grow up fast and hard.” She set her coffee down and asked, “Is there someone in particular you’re interested in?”
“Yes, but I’m pretty sure I blew it by telling him I don’t go for guys in uniform,” she said.
“Who is he? Do I know him?”
Eve hesitated. “Not . . . really.” When her mother raised her eyebrows expectantly, Eve sighed. “His name is Oliver Martinez. He’s been working on the charity event with me.”
“Martinez. Why do I know that name?”
“He was the soldier who got into a fight with Hank the night he was arrested,” Eve offered.
“Oh, dear.” Her mother covered her mouth, and Eve thought it was in horror at first, but then she heard a snort escape.
“Are you laughing?”
Her mother exploded into a fit of giggles, wiping at her eyes when they teared. “Of course you would be interested in the one man your father and brother despise.”
“To be fair, Oliver said Hank was drunk and getting handsy with some girls. When Oliver told him to stop, Hank threw the first punch.”
“And that may be so, but it doesn’t change the fact that you two are going to have a battle on your hands with your father,” her mother said.
“But not with you?” Eve asked.
“Not as long as he’s good to you.”
“I think he would be, but it’s hard to tell since we’ve never really gotten that far. I mean, we’ve hung out and kissed, but it hasn’t exactly been a normal courtship.”
Her mother patted her hand and smiled. “Normal is boring. At least now you’ll have a real story to tell my future grandchildren.”
“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, Mother. I’d like to get through at least one date with the man before you have me barefoot and pregnant.”
ON THE DAY of the charity event, everything was running smoothly as Eve left the gym where the educational demonstrations would be held. The military and police dog trainers would be up first to explain the process of training the dogs and even do a takedown demonstration. After they finished, search and rescue would do a mock rescue. There would be an hour-long break for lunch, and then the therapy dogs would complete the demonstrations.
The Rio Linda High School campus had turned out to be the perfect venue for the event. All the vendors were in place in the football field, wristbands were being purchased in the Quad, and she’d hired extra security, just in case. The dogs in training were all wearing their new Alpha Dog outfits, and they looked even better than Eve had hoped. The number of people who had turned out already was incredible.
The auditorium was being readied for the auction, and the adoptable dogs were being groomed just behind the large building. It was all going according to plan.
But there was one thing missing, and it had Eve ready to pull her hair out.
She hadn’t seen or heard from him in two days, and she was worried. She’d even called his cell phone, but it had gone straight to voicemail.
Eve caught sight of Best working with one of the dogs outside the gym and asked, “Have you seen Oliver? I can’t find him anywhere.”
“Yeah, I saw him a few minutes ago,” Best said. “I think he was taking Beast over to get fitted for an Alpha Dog shirt.”
“Thanks.” She headed toward the open classroom the school had offered for them to store things. She hated that Oliver was avoiding her, but she couldn’t really blame him after what she’d said at his place. She needed to apologize and make things right with him.
But she had to find him first.
“Hey, Eve, we got a problem!” someone called out.
Ah, hell, and everything was going so well.
Eve turned, pushing up her glasses as they slid down her nose, and found Sergeant Sparks coming toward her. “What’s up?”