He watched as she put away the camera and reached for her shoes. “This Colorado job. It’s a research position then? No fieldwork?”

“Almost all research, with very little if any fieldwork.”

He didn’t say a word. And she didn’t either. But she thought maybe he was wondering why she’d chosen research instead of field study.

At the moment, she was wondering the same. Concentrating on that, she tugged her laces tight, and one snapped off in her hand. “Crap.”

TJ went to his pack and pulled out the same pouch he’d pulled out the other night, the one that had held the smaller bag of Fritos. From it he withdrew…dental floss. “Shoelace.”

She stared at it, then slowly took it out of his fingers. “I think I’m in love with your backpack.”

“And my sleeping bag.”

“Yeah. That, too.”

“And my sexy bod.”

She slid him a look. “What did I tell you about that?”

“You said not to bring up your sexy bod. I didn’t do that. I brought up mine.” He smiled innocently. “So what else are you in love with?”

When she didn’t say a word, he smiled. “Let me guess. Me.”


He went quiet a moment. “There are all kinds of love, Harley.”

This stopped her. “How many kinds?”

“Well, there’s the deeply affectionate kind,” he pointed out. “Like you’d feel for family. Although sometimes it’s more…murderous than deep affection.”

“I’ll buy that,” she said.

“And then there’s the love you feel for someone you’re attracted to.”

“You mean lust,” she corrected.

“That, too, but I’m talking about more than one hot night. Like maybe you want to be with that person-for now.”

She eyed him, curious. Was he talking about them? “Without the commitment.”


“For people who have a short attention span, or are afraid to go deeper.”


“Like every fling you’ve ever had?” she asked sweetly.

“Calling the kettle black?”

“Hey, I haven’t had a fling in forever,” she said.

“It’s not the quantity…”

Knowing he was right, she held her tongue. For a moment. “I’ve never known you to be afraid of anything. I mean, I’ve seen you huck yourself off a cliff with your brothers with just a snowboard on your feet and live to tell the tale. I’ve seen you hanging off a rock that you free-climbed without a rope, nothing saving you from certain death except your own fingertips. Hell, I’ve even seen you face down a pissed-off rattlesnake.”

His eyes never left hers. “Those are all physical things.”

“You saying you’re afraid of something as simple as an emotion?”

He didn’t respond-which she supposed was answer enough. Who was she to press the issue, because when it came to that particular fear, they were in perfect accord. “So say you’re right,” she said, needing to lighten the mood. “And that there are all kinds of love.


“Then I guess it is entirely possible that I love you.”

He tripped over his own feet, something she’d never, ever, seen him do, and she smiled. “In the way I loved watching those bears,” she continued. “With a healthy respect and a good amount of distance for my well-being.”

“Now who’s the funny one?” he asked.

TJ followed Harley to the broken surveillance equipment on the ridge. She’d put on a pair of sunglasses and some ChapStick, both having taken her a good long time to find in her backpack, which made him shake his head.

But God, he loved to watch her.

“What?” she asked.


“You’re smiling.”

“All right. Maybe”-he stroked a finger over her temple-“maybe I love you, too.” He heard her breath catch. “In the same way that we both loved that hungry, grumpy bear.”

She let out a low laugh. “So we’re even.”


At the ridge, Harley sat next to the nonfunctioning camera equipment and got to work while TJ accessed his messages. Stone had two client calls for him to return regarding new upcoming winter trips. Good. Cam needed TJ to go for a tux fitting before Katie killed him-not good. And Nick had a question for Harley. “Nick wants to know if you’ve kicked my ass yet.”

“It’s still a possibility.”

TJ grinned. “Do you want to check in with anyone?”

“Most definitely not.” She shrugged at his unspoken question. “The joys of family.”

There were plenty of times he and his brothers drove each other halfway to the insane asylum, but they had each others’ backs, always.

Harley’s parents weren’t together, but they got along. They didn’t get drunk and beat on their kids, they’d always managed to put food on the table, and yet he knew, sweet and kind as they were, that Harley absolutely did not get the same support from her family that he got from his.

Her parents let their whims drive them. Whatever happened, happened. Harley had always needed more than that whimsical existence, and her hopes and dreams baffled her family. They loved her but didn’t understand her.

In spite of that basic lack of understanding and support, Harley had grown up incredibly strong, solidly grounded, and was the most softhearted person he knew. Not that she’d thank him for that assessment. She didn’t like to be soft, and she didn’t do need. Ever. “I know you’re working so hard to help out your parents,” he said. “And Skye. If you ever need-”