If you asked TJ Wilder to choose between a warm autumn night in the Sierras or a warm woman, he knew that most people would put money on him taking the woman.

And while that might have been true in his wild, unchecked youth, tonight they’d have been wrong.

Not that he didn’t love women. He did. Short or tall. Willowy or curvy. Sweet or hot-as-hell sexy-actually, make that especially hot-as-hell sexy. Over the years he’d loved plenty.

Yet he loved the Sierras, too. While it was true that the tall, rugged, remote mountain peaks could be deadly dangerous to both life and limb, the mountains couldn’t break a man’s soul.

At least not without permission.

TJ no longer let anything break him. He didn’t let anything break him or get to him, period. He was cool, calm, and prepared, always. Cam and Stone had long ago accepted, that as the oldest brother, TJ just knew things, like which direction to go on the mountain whether on skis or a bike, or in the helicopter. He knew which of their outdoor expedition clients would be a pain in the ass, and he could sense trouble a mile away.


But, as he walked through Moody’s Bar And Grill after a quick dinner with Cam and Stone, feeling full and surprisingly content for the moment, something plowed into his chest with the force of a cyclone.

Not something. Someone.

Harley Stephens-the one source of trouble he’d never managed to avoid.

Absorbing the impact, he prevented them both from tumbling to the floor, and as his brain registered how warm and soft she felt in his arms, she lifted her face, the scent of her filling his head. That’s when something else hit him, too, the same inexplicable sense that he always got with her, the déjà vu feeling that he’d been there before. Not there in the doorway of Moody’s with the fiery Indian summer sun setting behind her and the sound of the dinner crowd behind him, loud and rowdy…but there, as in having her practically wrapped around him.

Which made about as much sense as the head-buzzing physical reaction he got from the feel of her against him.

Wishful was a small mountain town. TJ knew every person in it fairly well, and Harley was no exception. He knew her layered blond hair, silky and straight and not quite touching her shoulders, even as a strand of it caught on the stubble of his jaw. He knew her face, always soft and pretty, though tonight it held more than a hint of fatigue and anxiety as well.

And just like that the sexual punch faded, replaced by concern. “Harley? You okay?”

Twisting free, she turned from him so quickly he was barely able to catch her hand. “Hey. Hey,” he murmured when she fought him pulling her back into him. His hands were on her arms as he bent to look into her face, which did him little good. Her eyes were covered by reflective sunglasses.

He pulled them off, exposing her warm chocolate eyes, but whatever expression he’d caught a quick flash of was gone, carefully and purposely gone.

“Did I hurt you?” she asked, staring at his throat, always so tough on the outside, yet so soft on the inside.

“No, I’m fine. You?”

She wasn’t. He could feel the tension of her body against his, in the quick quiver of her limbs, though that might just have been the same unwelcome erotic awareness he’d felt.

Still felt.

With Harley, he’d always felt it, though he’d gotten good at ignoring it since they subscribed to two very different philosophies in life. His being to live as uncomplicated as possible, including romantic entanglements. Hers being the opposite. She was complicated as hell, and she played for keeps.

“I’m fine, too,” she murmured, flexing her shoulders beneath his hands. “Really.”

He wasn’t surprised at her statement. She was proud and she didn’t need anyone. Just ask her. But he took a second, longer look at her, saw the exhaustion in the paleness of her skin, and the worry in the tight lines of her mouth. God, he loved her mouth. She wore gloss on a pair of lips that had given him more than a few dirty fantasies over the years. Then there was the milk chocolate depth of her gaze, which could warm anyone else’s soul but sliced right through his. She wore faded, snug Levi’s low on her hips and a pretty stretchy knit top that hugged the curves she was so often forced to hide beneath her mechanic overalls when she was working. “Harley, what’s wrong?”


A bullshit answer and they both knew it. Once upon a time, they’d been close enough that he could have called her on it. She was still close with his brothers, but TJ had never been able to put his finger on exactly when things had changed between them.

“Sorry about the collision,” she said.

Wow. Four whole words, willingly given. “No problem. Watch out.” He pulled her back up against him to let a customer move through the door, and for the second time in as many minutes he felt an undeniable…zing. And for the first time, he saw the mirror of it in Harley’s gaze before she could mask it.

For a deliciously long beat she stayed plastered up against him, and he began to think she was enjoying the connection, but proving the ridiculousness of that, she snatched her glasses from him and turned to walk away.

“You telling me you didn’t feel that?” he asked her back, having no idea why he pushed, or why he cared. Since when did he push for anything, especially something as nameless and intangible as what he might want from Harley Stephens?

“Feel what?”

“The thing that happens when we get too close.”