“I’m serious.”
                  “How can you be? We’ve known each other--" she glanced at her watch, “Five hours
    and forty-five minutes.” She peered at him with suspicion. “Nice try.” The compliment was issued with a twist of her lips before she changed tactics, “Did you know there’s a whole school of thought that believes the world will end September thirteenth, two-thousand and thirteen. It’s a Friday.”
                  “They believed the end of the Mayan calendar meant the end of human life, too.” He spread his arms to indicate all the tables surrounding them, each one occupied. Callahan’s was popular, even after the traditional dinner hour. “Anyway, we’re a few weeks from Armageddon.”
                  “You wouldn’t want to spend your last breath wishing you’d had more of me,” she taunted.
                  Her words hit home. Except the present moment, nothing about life was guaranteed. When he was in Afghanistan, he’d lived with that on a daily basis, held proof of it in his arms as Arturo died. Her words made him think about how temporary life could be. How we often lived our days doing more of what we didn’t want to do, and far less of what we longed for. But he was done with the any port in a storm thinking. He wanted more than that.  He needed more than that.
                  The conflict waged inside him as he considered her determination. Ivy knew her mind. He should respect that. And not just because it served him well, though for that reason he began to pick apart his easy capitulation. Coming together had to be good for both of them. Physically, he would make sure that Ivy got everything she needed and more. Emotionally, he’d gotten a lot of push and pull from her. He suspected she didn’t know where she stood as far as developing a relationship with him. And he wanted her to be sure. Would sex confuse her emotions? Or would  intimacy nurture the positive? And shouldn’t she have some control over where they went and how fast?
                  Ivy seemed to need that. She’d made it pretty clear—she resented his position and had sought to weaken it.
                  He let his gaze rest on Ivy’s face. She was beautiful—expressive eyes and full lips—but he saw more than surface qualities. Her inner strength made her gaze direct. It lifted her chin and created an air of challenge. It did crazy things to him—made him want to meet her on the mats, but hold her close and be her shield when needed. It was an intoxicating combination bottled in perfection. He had no chance against it. And very little fight left in him.
                  “Okay.” He nodded, glancing at his watch.  “Let’s call it six hours. Which means we need to get through three more before we start taking off our clothes.”
                  His agreement caused her pause. She folded the menu and laid it on the table. “We’re having sex in three hours?”
                  “That’s right.”
                  “At twelve-thirty am ,” she further clarified, glancing at her watch.
                  “Yes. August twenty-first,” he confirmed.
                  “Of this year?”
                  He laughed. “Getting cold feet?”
                  “Hardly. You just gave me a brain freeze for a moment. Why the change in plans?”
                  “A combination of things. But you’re right. I definitely don’t want my last breath to be full of regret.”
                  He watched emotions chase across her face. Anticipation dampened by a somber cast before her thoughts formed on her lips.
                  “I didn’t mean to call up bad memories for you,” she said. “I should have chosen my words more carefully.”
                  “No. You’re right. We

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