No getting naked, she repeated to herself several times.

No getting naked.


“Here, where the ground is dry.” TJ used his flashlight to better reveal the spot in the clearing. He dropped his pack on the ground and looked at Harley, who nodded but didn’t speak. She was hugging his jacket to her and seemed pale. He figured it was due to the combination of the shock of finding the dead coyote and being cold and wet. “I’m going to get wood for a fire,” he told her. “You need to change into dry clothes.”

“No,” she said, and pointed to a fallen log. “Sit.”

He arched a brow. “Excuse me?”

“Yeah,” she said toughly, ruining it by shivering. “You’re going to sit. And stay. Just like you told me to stay before.”

“But you didn’t stay.”

“Okay, true,” she said. “But you’ve already walked through a rainstorm, climbed a tree, got a hole pecked into your hand, and dragged rocks for a grave for that coyote, all for me. Hell, you even gave up your warm jacket. So now you’re going to sit and let me do the rest, as I would have done for myself anyway.”

He wanted to argue, wanted to say he could get a fire going in three minutes flat, and that she needed to get warmed up quick. But those things were counterproductive to his plan, which was getting her back to relaxed and enjoying herself. He really wanted that for her, so he obediently sat. “You going to cook for me, too?”

They both knew damn well she could burn water with little to no effort, but she shot him a considering look over her shoulder. “You know what, Mr. Smart-ass?” she murmured. “I think I will.”

Now he paled.

And she smiled.

Another mission accomplished, he thought, but as she turned her back to him to gather kindling for the fire, his smile fell away. Because he…was not relaxed. He had questions, lots of them. Most centering around the little bombshell he couldn’t stop thinking about.

They’d had sex.

Jesus Christ, he’d had sex with Harley, his greatest fantasy come true, and he was too much of an idiot to remember any of it.

Harley came back with a load of twigs and branches in her arms. She kneeled in the center of the clearing and started with the small twigs, graduating up to sticks, crisscrossing them over each other so the hot air would rise through them and help them catch. Then she set a big log on top before she lit the kindling, and he opened his mouth to correct her.

But she was frowning, concentrating deeply, and muttering to herself as she worked, looking frustrated and chilled, and so f**king adorable he shut his mouth.

He’d had her. Naked. Beneath him.

And he didn’t remember.

Yeah. That was going to haunt him for a damn long time to come.

In spite of not letting the kindling catch fire before she put the big hunk of wet wood on it, the fire actually smoked and flickered. He watched as she kneeled there in the dirt over the small flame, blowing on it, babying it along with soft coaxing murmurs that cracked him up, and then blowing some more, which didn’t crack him up but made him hard.

“Look,” she said triumphantly, turning to him, catching him staring at her mouth. “I got it.”

“Nicely done.” His voice was hoarse, and he cleared his throat. “You’re going to change now, right?”

She turned back to her fire and watched it proudly.

“Let me rephrase,” he said. “You are going to change now.”

She shot him a look over her shoulder. “I knew you were too alpha to sit there and follow directions for long.”

“I’m not all that al-” He stopped at her get real look. “Fine. Am I allowed to get up and move closer to the warmth?”

She smiled. “Sure.”

Except just then, the fire died.

“Dammit,” she said.

“Maybe you didn’t talk to it enough.”

She shot him a look and he let out a laugh. “It’s not your fault, Harley. Everything’s wet.” He opened his pack and pulled out a bag of Fritos.

“Hungry?” she asked.

“Yes, actually, but not for food.” Even in the dark he could feel her blush. “The chips are my emergency fire starters,” he explained.

“Get out.”

“I’m serious. All the grease makes them highly flammable.” Crouching beside her, he removed the big log from her pile, then opened the bag and placed a chip beneath the stacked kindling. He lit a match and set it to the chip, which immediately lit.


He waited a few moments until the pile was really flaming before he added the log.

“Neat trick,” she said.

He stared at the flames. “It was Sam’s.”

She was quiet a moment. “You learn a lot from her?”

“Yes. But mostly what not to do.” He smiled because the ache from her death had dulled, leaving just good times and good memories. “I loved her, but she was wilder and more reckless than even me.”

She raised a brow, looking amused. “That’s saying a lot.”

“Yeah.” And it’d been the death of her, literally. She’d died due to her own negligence and not being properly prepared for the turbulent waters on the river. She hadn’t been wearing the proper gear, and when she’d hit a rough rapid and gone under, she’d drowned.

For TJ, it’d been a senseless tragedy and an unwelcome wake-up call.