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OLIVIA WAS DREAMING THE most wonderful dream when she started to hear soft singing. She fluttered her eyes open, staring at comforting pink walls. She gazed over at the far corner of the room where the green-eyed boy sat rocking a little pink bundle, singing a slow version of Isn’t She Lovely. She smiled at how perfect everything was.
“Hi, Daddy,” she said after Alexander finished singing to their daughter.
He shot his head up, smiling when his eyes met Olivia’s gaze. Slowly raising himself off the rocking chair, he walked over to the bed. “Hi, Mama. Want to meet our daughter?”
She nodded and he helped her sit up before placing the newborn in her arms. “She’s perfect,” she commented, looking at her adorable little nose.
“What do we want to name her?” Alexander asked, kissing Olivia’s forehead.
“Melanie,” she replied, not even having to think about it.
Alexander smiled. “Melanie. It’s perfect.”
Olivia held her baby, gently kissing her head, thankful for everything she had. It was truly fitting that little Melanie made her appearance on August twenty-fourth. The day that had represented loss and pain for so long now represented something entirely different. It represented second chances. It represented life. It represented love. And, above all, it represented family.
“WHAT TIME ARE YOU off tonight?” Kiera asked as she wiped down the bar.
“I’m cut at midnight. You?”
“It’s kind of dead, except for that group of guys over there. They’re throwing ‘em back something fierce, too! It’s a Tuesday night, for crying out loud! Who gets that hammered on a Tuesday night?” Olivia remarked.
“You have to remember that you’re in Boston now, sweetheart. There’s a college every three feet. It’s a little different than Charleston, isn’t it?”
Olivia sighed. “Yeah. But that’s a good thing.”
“Finally!” Kiera laughed. “Took you long enough to realize this city is far better than Charleston.”
“I’ve only been here a year, Care Bear. It took me a little bit to get used to the faster pace of everything.”
“I know. I’m just teasing,” she said, playfully pushing her friend. “That guy over there is kind of hot, don’t ya’ think? He looks like he’s your age,” Kiera commented, gesturing with her head to where a group of eight college-aged guys sat guzzling back beers, apparently celebrating something.
“I guess,” Olivia replied, shrugging her shoulders.
“Come on, Libs. I know you. He’s so your type. Go talk to him. I’m going to take my break before you leave, anyway. What do you have to lose?”
She sighed. “How many times do I have to tell you? I don’t date. I…”
“Yeah, yeah,” Kiera interrupted. “You fuck and that’s it. I got it. But, one of these days, you’re going to find someone that sweeps you off your feet, and you’ll want something more meaningful. Too bad it’s not with the hottie over there,” Kiera replied cheerily before climbing over the bar and down a long corridor into the staff room, leaving Olivia alone behind the bar with just her thoughts to consume her time.
“TO ALEX!” A RATHER drunk kid shouted, his voice ringing through the relatively empty bar. “I can’t believe you’re crazy enough to go through SEAL training. You are one bad ass motherfucker!”
“Damn straight!” Alex slurred, slinging back his beer. He had lost track of how many he had drank that night. He was trying to get his fill while he could. In two days, he would be heading back to Norfolk before having to report for training, and he needed to get through. Failing was not an option. He needed this. He needed something that could finally take his mind off her. She still haunted his dreams. He saw her everywhere. Hell, she was even his bartender that night.
“That hottie bartender is looking over here,” one of Alexander’s old Harvard friends said, interrupting his thoughts. “Dude, go talk to her. Get one last piece of ass before your ass is back in the Navy. Come on, Alex. Looks like she’s about to go home for the night. It’s now or never.”
Alexander grinned and chugged the rest of his beer. He had been enjoying the last month that he was home on leave. He had been screwing girls left and right because that’s what he did. He needed to. It was the only way to get her out of his head. The guilt of what happened that day still lay heavy on his heart.
“You’re right!” Alexander shouted, slamming his empty beer bottle on the table. “It’s one of my last nights here! Why waste it hanging out with you fuckers?!” He stumbled off his barstool and made his way toward the front door, catching up with the bartender he had his eye on. “Excuse me,” he said, trying to get her attention.
This is why I hate bartending, Olivia thought to herself as she spun around, crossing her arms protectively in front of her chest and glaring at the drunk guy who called out to her. Her gaze softened when she saw his brilliant green eyes. He looked so familiar, but she would have remembered meeting someone that devastatingly handsome before.
He stood there with a dumbfounded look on his face, remaining silent while Olivia stared.
“Well, are you going to talk or are you fucking mute?” she spat out, rebuilding her wall.
Alexander ran his fingers through his hair, trying to compose his thoughts. There was something about her that made him nervous. That was a new thing for him. He was never jittery around women. And those eyes… “I just wanted to thank you for taking care of me and my friends tonight,” he said, finally finding his voice. He reached into his wallet and took out several large bills. “You made most of our drinks and I didn’t want you to get shortchanged on your tips.” He handed Olivia the cash.
She looked down. “This is two hundred dollars. I think that’s a little much. Anyway, we pool tips.”
Alexander shrugged. “I know. But I thought you should have it.”
Olivia stared at him. “I don’t need it.”
“Neither do I. I’m in the Navy. I’m heading for SEAL training in two days. This is my last night in Boston,” he explained.
“Maybe you should donate this money to charity then.”
“Well, if you won’t take my money, let me take you out to breakfast tomorrow.”