THIRTY-FIVE

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As Clarie leveled her stare on him, Bruce wanted to curse. Way to make her feel uncomfortable, asshole. He thought she was going to get up and leave, but she surprised him by leaning over to undo the other boot, pulling it off, and bringing that foot up to his lap for its turn. 

"Tell me, Major Morgan, do you flirt with all women?"

"Only the pretty ones."

"Is that supposed to flatter me?"

Ah hell, he couldn't get anything right, could he? He shrugged for lack of a better response.

"At least you're honest." She sighed. "Have you ever been in love?"

The question came from so far out in left field it felt like a baseball had actually smacked him in the head.

Bruce braced himself, expecting green eyes to fill his thoughts. But for the first time since he had left, he pictured Virginia and Mark together. How they would stare at each other across a crowded room as if no one else was there. How they couldn't walk by each other without a light touch passing between them. How they just seemed to fit. Effortlessly.

He found himself smiling. Well, isn't this an unexpected turnaround. He was happy for them.

Realizing he had zoned out with a stupid grin, he cleared his throat and answered, "No."

"Had to think about it, huh?"

"I was just thinking about friends of mine. They are my benchmark for being in love, I guess." He shrugged.

"That's so sweet. How come you haven't found that?"

"It's hard to know what women want." That was especially true of the woman in front of him.

"I agree. I feel sorry for men sometimes." She laughed at the surprise that must have shown on his face before adding, "Half the time I don't know what I want. How could I expect a man to?"

Bruce smiled. "At least you're honest."

"Women have it much easier . . . men are much easier to read. After all, they only want one thing."

His smile slid away, his brows dropping low. "That's a little pessimistic and stereotypical, don't you think?"

"Really?" She tilted her head, and he knew she was back in that storage room, with him, in the shadows, his body pressing into hers.

Shit. Just . . . shit. He stared down at the foot he was working on. Wanting to lighten the mood, he tossed the ball in her direction. "How about you? Ever been in love?"

"Yes."

Bruce jerked his head up so fast, he could have gotten whiplash.

"At least I thought I was. It was a long time ago. I had just enlisted when I met this charismatic man. He was older, a captain at the time, and one of my teachers." She dropped her gaze and began to pick at a loose thread on her sleeve. "Things got serious pretty quickly. We talked about moving in together, what kind of house we liked, how many children we might have. He even met my parents, charmed them too." She linked her arms across her chest. "Part of me knew something was wrong. I was stupid or naïve or whatever you want to call it. Alarms bells were going off all over the place. There were so many excuses, why he couldn't go look at a place, why he hadn't put in for that transfer, why . . ." She shook her head like it didn't matter, but Bruce wasn't buying it.

"His teaching took him on temporary assignments all over the country, but he would fly home on weekends, back to Texas. He claimed he had a sick mother to tend to. Turned out he had a wife and two kids to tend to."

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