THIRTY

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Early the next morning, the major general welcomed Bruce into his office with a smile and a handshake. The guy even had a cup of coffee waiting. According to the conversations Bruce had been having in the chow hall and PX, this was Morris's methodology: approachable, patient, and supportive. To the average rank and filer, he didn't act like a man with something to hide.

But Bruce wasn't average.

"Commander Wilson's supply order," Bruce said, handing over the paperwork that required Morris's approval.

"Thank you." He nodded, giving it a quick perusal before lifting his gaze back to Bruce. "Tell me, Major, how do you like working with Commander Wilson?"

"It's . . . interesting."

Morris chuckled. "Yes, I've heard she's a little uptight. But she's a beautiful woman. At least the view is nice."

"Very beautiful." Bruce needed some connection to this man if he was going to develop any kind of relationship and earn his trust. He just hated like hell using Claire as that bond.

Morris gave him a slow once over. "How about you, Major? Got a girl back home?"

He was sizing up his competition. Bruce needed to be out of contention. "Sure do."

"What does she look like?"

He tried to block the image, pick another from his memories, like that cute little redhead he'd met at— Shit, there she was, his made-up girl back home: A dark-haired, green-eyed beauty. He gave into it, knowing she would understand. "Long dark hair, green eyes . . . stubborn as hell."

"Ah, yes. The stubborn ones always get the juices flowing. What about her breasts? Big?"

What the fuck?! The thought of Morris trying to picture Virginia's breasts, even an imagined version, had Bruce itching to do to the father what he had done to the son. But he managed to play it cool and let the asshole keep breathing. "I'm more of a leg man myself."

"Yes, legs are important too," Morris said wistfully. "That Commander Wilson though, she's got it all."

Bruce frowned. How the hell would he know what Claire—?

Morris straightened, as if catching himself. "From what I can see anyway. These uniforms do nothing to enhance the feminine figure."

"True," Bruce muttered. He needed to get them off of the subject of Claire before he clocked the guy.

"Have a seat, Major." Morris offered him his desk and carried his paperwork over to a small conference table at the other end of the office, sharing the space with an antique ivory chess set that dominated most of the table's surface.

"Do you play?" Bruce asked, pointing to the expensive centerpiece.

Morris fingered one of the pieces. "Yes. Not much, though. Haven't found a worthy opponent, I'm afraid." With an optimistic glance he added, "Do you play?"

"High school chess club president." Those words rarely came out of Bruce's mouth. Who would have thought all those teenage years of nerdiness would come in handy some day. Maybe he wouldn't have to use Claire after all. "I'm pretty damn good if I do say so myself." Hopefully, good enough.

"Shall we put that opinion to the test? How about tonight after mess hall?"

"You're on."

With a nod, Morris turned back to the papers in front of him. Bruce focused his attention on the computer.

"You have limited space left on your hard drive," Bruce said.

Morris stood and came up behind him to peer over his shoulder at the screen. "Is that why it's been slow lately?"

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