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“Well, if it’s any consolation, I think he looks adorable,” Eve said behind him.

Oliver turned, and when she got a look at his face, she paled.

“Oh my God, Oliver, what happened?”

Oliver had known she was going to freak when she saw the massive bruising on his cheek, but he hadn’t expected her to race toward him and reach up like she was going to touch it.

He leaned back away from her hand. “Careful, it’s sore.”

“Of course it is, I’m sorry,” she said, dropping her hand. “What did you do?”

“What makes you think I did something?” Beast had already pushed his way between them, waiting for Eve to notice him.

Eve knelt down and stroked Beast’s head, studying both dog and master behind those dark-framed glasses and shaking her head. “You two are a mess.”

Beast’s whole body wiggled body when she spoke, and she kissed him on his nose, earning a wet, slobbery tongue lick.

“You poor baby, you look like someone sewed your head back on,” she said.

“He’s lucky. The vet said if he’d kept struggling much longer, he could have hit his jugular and bled out,” Oliver said.

“Well, I’m glad he’s okay now,” she said, standing back up. “You didn’t answer me. Why do you look like you joined a fight club?”

“Bumped into a guy I don’t care for, and it was just the wrong place, wrong time,” he said.

“Do I need to ask what the other guy looks like?” she asked.

“He looks worse, trust me.” Oliver hadn’t actually seen Tate, but he remembered the blood oozing from his lip, the swelling of his eye, and the red imprints of Oliver’s fists across his cheeks and nose. They had dumped him in his car after Tate knocked him out, and he’d woken up sore, sweating, and pissed at himself. At least they hadn’t arrested him, though.

“Well, that’s good, I guess,” she said.

They stood silently for a moment, until Oliver said, “On Monday I go back to being an MP.”

A shadow crossed over her face, and he saw the disappointment in her eyes. “Oh.”

“Yeah.” He debated telling her that he’d tried to transfer, but what good would it do? Neither one of them could change the outcome. Besides, maybe it was stupidly romantic, but if she wanted him, really wanted him the way he wanted her, then it shouldn’t matter.

Fuck, he was an idiot.

Eve stepped forward, moving around Beast to be closer to him, and the sweet, fruity scent of her perfume curled around him.

“Oliver, I—”

“Eve, thank God I found you!” some guy said, rushing toward them.

Eve groaned, and Oliver wanted to tell him to get lost, but she was already turning away from him, back on the job. “What’s wrong?”

“There’s a vendor who isn’t on the list, and we’re having a hell of a time getting him to calm down.”

Before she could tell him she had to go, Oliver let her off the hook. “We’ll see you later.”

Eve caught his eye and mouthed, I’m sorry.

As she walked away, Oliver resumed getting Beast ready, but he couldn’t help wondering what she was sorry for.

EVE TOOK THE stage of the auditorium at eleven, smiling out at the packed house despite her apprehension. She wasn’t completely alone—the auctioneer stood by the podium—but still her heart wouldn’t slow down. She had never been a nervous public speaker, but this was the largest crowd she’d ever addressed, so she figured it was okay that her hands were shaking a little.

Gripping the mic with one hand, she tilted it toward her mouth and spoke.