The start-up capital had come from Cam’s earnings as a pro snowboarder. Stone had contributed the required construction expertise. And TJ, through his years of trekking before they’d gone into business, had brought in the high-dollar clients and business knowledge.

The three of them had grown up fast and hard and without much hope. There’d never been any doubt in TJ’s mind that they’d end up dead or in jail just like the rest of the men in their family. But it’d never happened. Somehow they’d come out on top. So much so that they were pretty much paid to play for a living. Yet beneath that so-called play, Wilder Adventures was also a lot of hard work.

The offices were housed on the second floor of the lodge. At the moment, they were in Stone’s office for their weekly meeting. As usual, it was more a family gathering to bitch and tease than anything else. Stone was at his desk with Emma standing behind him, rubbing his shoulders. She was dressed for work at her medical clinic, wearing her doctor’s coat and looking official with her stethoscope around her neck, which clashed with her just-had-sex glow. Stone had the same glow as he sent her a slow, warm, lazy smile over his shoulder.

Cam was slouched in a chair in front of Stone’s desk, and he was also looking pretty damn loose, no doubt thanks to Katie, their receptionist and Cam’s bride-to-be, who was plopped in his lap.

Nick was in another chair, flipping through the latest mechanics’ magazine. Chuck was under the desk, no doubt hoping someone would drop something good to eat.

Chuck lived for food.

Her kittens were winding their way around people’s feet, having fun with shoelaces and each other.

Stone tugged the magazine out of Nick’s hands, revealing what Nick was really reading-a book of baby names.

“What,” Nick said in his defense. “Kid needs a name.”

Stone tossed the book to the desk.

Startled, Chuck ran out from beneath it, ears back. Katie cooed to her, picking her up and cuddling her while giving Stone a reproachful look.

At the cuddling, Chuck went still as stone. She still wasn’t crazy about being held, but she didn’t like to insult her human, either, so she endured Katie’s snuggling with a resigned expression, hoping she’d be rewarded with a snack.

“How about Tude?” Stone asked Nick. “Short for Attitude, ’cause any kid of Annie’s is bound to have it.”

“Can we get to business?” TJ asked.

“Sure,” Stone said. “I’ve got both good and bad news. Bad first. Goddammit.” With a pained grimace, he peeled a solid gray kitten off his leg. He lifted the little thing by the scruff of her neck and looked her in the eyes. “Watch the claws.”

The kitten batted at Stone’s nose.

Stone sighed and put her on his shoulder, where she curled up and began to purr. “TJ, your Canadian trip just got cancelled. The clients had some work stuff come up and can’t take the month off. But they forfeited their deposit with the last-minute cancel, so we’re still getting paid.” Stone grinned. “Guess you’re stuck here with us for a while.”

“Shit,” TJ said.

Stone looked at him, smile fading. “Yeah, now see, I sort of thought that’d be the good news.”

“Seriously, man,” Cam said. “You’ve done nothing but trek after trek this past year. Thought maybe you’d want to hang around.”

“You can help us with wedding plans,” Katie said as if that was actually some kind of bonus. “Instead of showing up at the last minute like you’d have to do if you left.”

Which is exactly what he’d been hoping for.

Annie arrived, looking harassed. “I’m late.”

No one dared agree with her. She was temperamental in the best of times, and pregnancy wasn’t one of them. No one wanted to risk their neck, not when her apron said it all: K*SS MY *SS-Would you like to buy a vowel?

Nick pulled her onto his lap, where she snuggled in, harassed look gone, replaced by a soft smile. “How are you feeling?” Nick asked her.

“Great, but Not-Abigail would be doing better if I hadn’t eaten all the brownies I made earlier.”

Nick rubbed her belly and smiled as Annie looked around. “What’s up? I miss anything?”

“You almost missed TJ telling us what his problem is,” Cam said.

Everything looked at TJ.

“I don’t have a problem,” TJ said.

“Really?” Annie asked. “’Cause you don’t seem like yourself.”

“Of course I’m myself. Who else would I be?”

“I don’t know,” Stone said. “Maybe some guy who’s really good at shoving all his shit into a box and not dealing with it.”

“What shit? I’m fine.”

Stone coughed into his hand and said, “bullshit” at the same time.

TJ ignored him.

Annie sighed. “Told you,” she said to Nick, who nodded sagely.

“Told him what?” TJ asked.

“That you’re still on that whole don’t-care, let-nothing-penetrate campaign.”

“That’s ridiculous,” TJ said. “I care about plenty.”

“About us, yes,” Annie agreed. “But what about outside us?”

“Hell, there’s so many of ‘us’ to worry about, why do I need more?”

“You used to need more. You used to have a huge wide circle of people you cared about. Then Sam died.”