It wasn’t easy. She had temper and frustration all over her, in the stiffness of her body and the fierceness of the set of her mouth, but it was the shame and humiliation burning her eyes and cheeks that tore at him. “What?” he repeated hoarsely. “What did you just say?”

“Nothing. I said nothing.”


“Oh, God. Please don’t make me say it again.” She closed her eyes and dropped her head to his chest.

He ran a hand up her spine, wrapped his fingers in her hair, and gently tugged her head up until she met his gaze. “We slept together,” she whispered.

Stunned, gutted, he could only stare into her liquid brown eyes.

“Although,” she said with great irony, “it should be noted that there was no sleeping involved.”

“What are you saying?”

“Long Lake,” she said. “The summer after your graduation.”

Vague images of being seventeen years old hit him, vague because he’d been stoned or drunk just about his entire senior year of high school. “What about it?”

“Remember that big camping party, the one everyone had to four-wheel up Pioneer Slate to get to?”

“Still not ringing a bell.”

“July Fourth,” she clarified.

He slowly shook his head, thoughts racing. He’d been wild and out of control, especially that summer. No mom and an abusive father did that to a kid. That summer had been the last of a long, misspent youth before he’d left for college in Colorado, where he’d studied as little as possible, met Sam, traveled extensively, and had gotten his first taste of the great, big world outside of the Sierras.

It’d been heaven on earth after the childhood he’d endured. “I camped and partied that entire summer,” he told her. “It’s all one big blur to me.”

She nodded. He knew she knew that. She knew a lot about him.

Maybe too much.

He’d thought he’d known a lot about her as well, but he was beginning to think that might not be as true as he wanted it to be.

“You were with Chrissie,” she reminded him.

Chrissie had been his on-and-off girlfriend through high school.

Mostly off.

Actually, to be more accurate, girlfriend was a loose term for f**k buddies.

Good times.

“I went up there with Lance O’Brien,” she said.

TJ remembered Lance. They’d played basketball together. Lance had gone on to become some big hotshot sports announcer in San Francisco, but back then, he’d been into a different girl each week, slowly making his way through the entire student body.

Harley had been very shy and quiet in high school, and it had been an odd match.

“Yeah,” Harley told him, reading his mind. “It was what you might call a pity date on his part.” She didn’t look happy to be recounting the story.

In fact, she looked uncomfortable and extremely embarrassed.

“Lance was an ass,” he said.

She looked slightly mollified. “You and Chrissie were parked next to us, having a great time. I wasn’t having a great time.” She paused, then pushed away from him and walked a few feet off, staring into the wilderness, her shoulders straight but quivering slightly, as if they held the weight of the world.

And though he knew he wasn’t going to like the story, he moved close. “Tell me,” he said softly.

Harley had thought a lot about what had happened between her and TJ over the years, about her resentment, about him not remembering, but surprisingly enough, she’d never given any thought as to what it’d be like to tell him. She turned away from him and crossed her arms over her chest, staring into the woods, which were still echoing with the rain dropping from the trees.

TJ said her name, a quiet demand. “Harley.”

She acknowledged the low timbre and roughness of his voice with a little nod. She wasn’t being coy or annoying on purpose. She was just so nervous that her legs were shaking, but she’d started this, she’d finish it. It helped that she had her back to him, that he couldn’t see her face. “Chrissie had stolen some of her dad’s booze, and the two of you were sitting in the back of your truck sharing it.” Closing her eyes, it was as if she was back there. Late, hot, dark night. No moon. No breeze. Just the sounds of the crickets, the water lapping at the rocks, and TJ and Chrissy laughing and enjoying themselves.

Oh, and her own misery.

“I was mortified,” she went on quietly. “Because I’d been determined to lose my virginity that night, and you were parked right next to me. The whole time Lance was kissing me and copping a feel, I”-she shook her head-“I was wishing it was you,” she whispered.

She could feel him staring at her, could practically feel his frustration.

“Christ,” he said. “I don’t remember.”

“Chrissie asked you if her dress made her butt look fat and you didn’t answer. She got pissed, threw the bottle of liquor over the side of the truck, and got out.”

“Sounds like Chrissy.”

“She came over to us and asked for a ride home. Lance was drooling over her halter top. She was…far more well-endowed than I was, and I was already over the evening, so I got out of the car and said he could take Chrissie, that I was going to party with the others.” She paused. “I didn’t.”

“What did you do?”

“I climbed into the bed of your truck to sit with you.” She closed her eyes again. “They drove off and I found you lying alone, watching the stars.” He’d looked so damn hot all sprawled out. “You smiled and held out your hand, and I lay back with you to watch, too. You closed your eyes and drifted off. I did the same.” She’d been glowing, a little toasted from the alcohol. Mostly she’d been glowing because she was lying next to the big, bad, wildly sexy TJ and he’d been holding her hand. “You turned to me and pulled me into you and told me I smelled pretty.” He’d been so sweet, unexpectedly so, and warm. God, so warm. “You kissed me and…”