And here was the tough part to handle. “You…started touching me,” she said. “I’d had this stupid, silly crush on you for so damn long, but you’d never treated me as anything other than a pesky little sister, and…” And he’d kissed so amazingly, like heaven on earth. Some things never changed. “You started touching me, and all our clothes sort of fell away, and then…” And then he’d pulled her beneath him and she’d completely lost herself.

It’d been heaven, all of it, until he’d fallen asleep afterwards. She’d tried to rouse him and he’d pushed her away, muttering “Chrissie, shh. Tired.”

She’d never forget that, staring down at him in confusion and utter devastation. Remembering it now brought a flush of embarrassment to her face, and she put her hands up to cover it.

TJ let out a long, slow exhale, his breath ruffling the wet hair at her nape, and then turned her to face him. His voice was different when he spoke, calm but the concern clear even with his tight control. “Did I hurt you, Harley?”

“No. God, no. You…you were…” Sweet. Loving. Hot.


He pulled her hands away from her face and held them, waiting until she looked at him to speak. “Are you sure?”

“Very,” she said weakly, and closed her eyes, swallowing hard. “And I’d really like it if we could go back to not talking about it now.”

“We didn’t talk about it because I didn’t remember it,” he said quietly. “If I had, believe me, we most definitely would have talked.”

“It was a long time ago. It’s done.”

He let out a long breath.

“So…is this going to be uncomfortable now?”

“Does it feel uncomfortable?”

“No more than usual.” With her eyes closed, she registered the sounds around them. The wind rustling the trees, the rainwater still in the branches falling to the ground. The chirping of birds…

Incessant chirping, actually, which wasn’t a normal, happy sound. “Do you hear that?”

“Hear what?”

Shaking her head, she turned and followed the bird sounds, off the trail and through the thick brush.


“Hang on, there’s something wrong.”

She found it at a full, majestic Jeffrey pine, towering at least a hundred feet in the air. At the base of the thick trunk sat a very young bird, squeaking, pathetically flapping its wings for all it was worth and getting nowhere. Above it was the nest from which it’d fallen, its frantic mom, and two more babies.

“Oh, no, you poor thing.” Harley carefully scooped up the baby and eyed the tree, trying to figure out how to climb it with the baby in her hands when TJ gently nudged her aside.

He reached for a branch above his head, using it to pull himself up with what appeared to be no effort at all. His T-shirt clung to all those flexing and bunching muscles as he straightened to a stand on the branch. He tested the branch above him, his jeans going tight and snug over his very fine ass.

“Here,” he said, crouching low again to hold out his hand for the baby bird, and caught her red-handed staring at his hind end.

He said nothing but did raise a brow at her.

She shrugged, but figured apologizing was a waste of breath. Besides, he’d ogled her in her wet shirt plenty. Fair was fair. She set the birdie in his palm and watched in awe and not a little bit of envy as he gently settled the little bird back into the nest. In thanks, the mom viciously pecked at him.

He pulled his hand back quickly, chuckling as he lithely leapt to the ground. “I don’t think she liked me much.”

Harley took his hand and looked at the blood welling from the new hole between two of his knuckles. “Ouch.”

“It’s okay.” He gestured to her to precede him back through the bush to the trail, where they’d left their packs. She started to open hers to look for her first-aid kit but he already had his out. “It’s really nothing,” he said. “Just want to make sure it’s clean.”

She took the kit from him. Since they didn’t have running water, she took his hand in hers and used an antiseptic spray. They both had their heads bent over their joined hands, so close she could feel the warmth of his breath on her jaw. Looking up into his eyes, she winced for him. “Hurt?”


She smiled softly. “Now who’s the liar.”

Then she lifted his hand to her mouth and still holding his gaze, softly blew on the wound.

His eyes smoldered.

Later Harley would think she had no idea what the hell came over her, but she blew again, and he appeared to stop breathing. “If you’re doing that on purpose,” he said softly, his voice pure silk, “you should know, paybacks are a bitch.”

Next, she dabbed antibiotic ointment on the wound, then covered it with a Band-Aid, struggling with her conflicting emotions over him. The need to run far and fast-versus the need to crawl up his body.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she finally said, innocently.

He let her get away with that. Or so she thought, but when she turned to walk off, he snagged her, pulling her back against him. “Are we playing, Harley?” he asked, his mouth against her ear.

She could feel him, hard and warm at her back. Were they playing? Tilting her head up, she looked into his eyes, dark and heated.

“Is that question going to take you awhile?” he asked, mouth slightly curved.