“This one drops you in right above Mystic Flats.” His arm came around her as he pointed with a long finger. “And this one ends at Big Oak Flats. They’ll both get you there, but yeah, Mystic Flats is the easier way in.”

She searched that statement for an insult but decided there was none. Even more interesting, he was leaving the decision to her, not taking charge. It defused her, and honestly, also completely charmed her.

So they took the far right trail and she did her best to keep the pace up, wanting to get there before nightfall.

At the next burst of thunder and lightning, the drizzle began, the light mist feeling cool and delicious against her heated skin.

“You want to stop and wait out the storm?” he asked from behind her.

She knew it was stupid to let herself get wet, but it felt so wonderful. Intoxicating. She turned to shake her head and he pulled off his sunglasses to eyeball her.


“Nothing,” he said. “I like the look, is all.”

The look? That’s when she realized she was smiling from ear to ear. It was just that lately she’d been so damn stressed all the time, awake or asleep, and it’d gotten to her. It’d been slowly sucking the energy and life from her.

But it’d all faded away to nothing when he looked at her like that. “You’re getting wet,” she pointed out.

“No shit, Harley. It’s raining.”

She laughed. “I like it out here.”

His gaze touched over her features, a small smile on his lips. “I know the feeling.”

Common ground.

It was unexpected, and like everything else in regard to him, arousing. They just looked at each other, the moment more intense than the kiss they’d shared. She let out a breath, and they started walking again.

A quarter of a mile later, the skies opened up and dumped on them. Walking became tricky, their feet slipping on the thick carpet of pine needles shedding from the trees all around them. “Here,” TJ said, pulling her under the protection of a tree as the sound of the rain hitting the ground in large, golf ball-size drops deafened them both. They dropped their packs, which felt like a nice relief.

“It’s a little too late for this,” Harley said wryly.

“Yeah.” He stood next to her, hands on his hips, watching her from behind those reflective glasses. Shell zipped, hood up, he was completely dry.

Unlike her, who thanks to her own stupidity, had gotten drenched while being pelted by the big drops.

She shivered.

“Harley,” he said on a barely expelled breath. He sounded almost pained.

Yeah. She knew. In a matter of three seconds, her clothes had plastered themselves to her body. She pressed her spine to the tree, dropping her head to study her muddy shoes. “I might have made a tactical error not putting on a jacket when you did.”

“Wait here. I want to check out the distance from the cliff.”

While he was gone, another burst of lightning hit, and then the shuddering boom of thunder so close it rattled the ground beneath her feet. The rain hadn’t let up, and she took a moment to be impressed in a sort of distracted way. Like most things out there in the Sierras, thunderstorms were oversized and amazing to behold.

A set of boots came into her vision, attached to a pair of long denim-covered legs. A single finger, warm and callused, lifted her chin, and two sharp green eyes held hers. He had a five o’clock shadow going, which only upped his sexy factor, giving him a dangerously alluring appeal that he didn’t need. “You look like you could use an umbrella,” he said.

“Umbrellas are for sissies.”

“How about jackets?” he asked. “Are they for sissies, too?”

“No.” The truth was, she knew her shell was shoved in the very bottom of her backpack. Somewhere. She was a lot of things, but organized wasn’t one of them, and she really wasn’t anxious for him to see the state of her pack.

Especially since his was perfect-obnoxiously so. “I like the feel of the rain on my skin.” Or she had, up until she’d gotten chilled to the bone, a fact she involuntarily gave away when she let out a full-body shiver.

“Harley.” He waited until she looked at him, which she didn’t want to do because she didn’t want to see him laughing at her. His eyes were dark, and full of lots of things, but he wasn’t laughing. “On my first solo trip, it snowed. In July. I walked in it for three hours in a T-shirt. I thought I was in heaven.”

Again their gazes held for a long beat, and as always when he gave her his undivided attention, heat slashed through her stomach. “What happened?” she whispered.

“When I got home, I had pneumonia.” He turned them so that he was the one backed up against the tree. He unzipped his shell, then pulled her into his arms. She leaned into him as he tucked her inside his jacket, allowing her to absorb his body heat.

Heaven, and hell. Heaven, because he smelled…yum, and felt even yummier, and hell because being up against him like that after avoiding contact for so long brought up memories she tried to only visit in the deep, dark of her dreams where secret fantasies reigned.

“You okay?” he murmured, his mouth to her ear, his breath a warm caress on her skin as he rubbed small circles on her back.

Was she? She could feel the steady beat of his heart beneath her cheek, could feel the lean hardness of his muscles, the way his hand was infusing her with his warmth as he stroked her. Startlingly, she realized she was so much more than okay. Forcing herself to shake off the haze of desire, she stepped free. “Yes. Thanks.”