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She looked sheepish. “That was when I was trying to be professional.”

“Since when is sharing a meal unprofessional?” he asked.

Oliver noticed the red stain of her cheeks and wondered what she was thinking.

“It can be too casual and often leads to personal questions, as we’ve already seen,” she said.

“Ah, and getting to know each other is a bad idea, right?” he asked.


“SO, I’M THINKING we’ll advertise in the Sacramento Bee and on Facebook. You probably don’t know if the program is already set up on social media, huh?”

Once she’d finished eating, Eve had spread out her planner on her side of the table, excited to share her ideas.

“We can even do an event page and people can RSVP online. We can post pictures and videos of the dogs and their handlers—Oh!”

“Watch out, ladies and gentlemen, she has an idea,” Oliver said.

“Ha-ha, but yes I do! Alpha’s dogs come from the local shelter, right?”

“I believe so,” he said.

“So, we could use the bachelor auction as a chance for adoptable animals to be seen by the public. The shelter can sign up their dogs, and the trainers from the program can lead the dogs out. I’ll look into a vendor who sells homemade dog treats, and we can stuff picnic baskets with both dog and people food. People can bid on a ‘picnic with a pooch’ and the pooch’s handler. They’ll get to know the dog and have one free training lesson. You could have the trainers teach the winners some basic skills. I think it could work!”

“You’re not talking about the kids, right?” he asked.

“No, the adult trainers. The kids can walk the Alpha dogs around the event, handing out information and doing mini demonstrations.”

“So, you’re essentially pimping out the trainers, right? It’s not really the dogs people are bidding on,” he said.

Eve paused for half a second before answering. It was true that the auction’s main focus was the dogs, but if they got enough attractive male and female trainers? Well, if the rest of them looked anything like Oliver Martinez, women would pay extra to spend an afternoon with the trainers.

“I mean, if you want us to strut our stuff for charity, you could at least be up-front about it,” he said.

“It’s about the dogs, but if someone happens to notice how good-looking one of the trainers is and wants to pay a little more, then I say yay.”

“I feel objectified,” he said.

Eve burst out laughing. “Does it make you uncomfortable to have people ogling your hot body?”

“You think my body is hot, huh?” he teased.

Well, hadn’t she just veered away from professional and dived into outrageous? Yet despite the dangerous turn of the conversation, she couldn’t seem to stop talking. “Please, you know you’re nice to look at.”

“Why, I think that is the nicest thing you’ve said to me since we met,” he said.

“What?” Eve twisted her face in an expression of mock horror. “You mean in the hour that I’ve known you, I’ve only paid you one compliment? How dare I?”

Oliver’s deep chuckle made her smile along with him. If she was being honest with herself, she’d actually been having fun sparring with him. He was confident, funny, and didn’t back down just because of who her dad was.

Which made it dangerously easy to like him.

Liking him was fine, even being friendly with him. But she’d also caught herself gazing too long into his eyes and admiring the little crinkles in the corners when he smiled. His mouth was perfect, neither too full nor too thin, and when his tongue slipped across his lips to catch the sprinkles of salt from his french fries, she’d caught herself doing the same, imagining that tongue on hers. His big, tan hands looked rough, and she could almost feel them trailing across her skin, leaving lightning strikes of desire in their wake.

Stop it, now! He is not the first military man you’ve thought was hot, and he won’t be the last.

Their server came back to the table with their check, and Eve reached into her purse for her wallet, but Oliver laid some cash down.

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