“You might have been the one with a crush on me growing up, but I’ve had a crush on you for several years,” he admitted. “I don’t know why. I think it was all that bickering we did, it always made me”-he flashed her a grin-“hot.”

She rolled her eyes and made him laugh.

“Every party, every get-together, every pool game, it all drove me crazy,” he said.

“You never said.”

“I hid it behind a helluva lot of long trips.” He smiled grimly. “And a lot of cold showers.”

She stared at him, her eyes soft. “I never knew.”

“I never meant you to. You’re not the only one who can hide their feelings.” He nudged her in even closer. “The truth is, Harley, what I feel for you could slip right past lust into uncharted waters if I let it.”

She swallowed hard. “If you let it?”

“Don’t worry. I’m working on it.”

“Okay.” She nodded, but then shook her head and closed her eyes. “Maybe we should go back to the bickering. Bickering was so easy.”

“Think we can?” He nudged her with his knee, slid a hand up her back, and felt her practically melt into him, which was more than a little gratifying. “Really?”

She left her eyes closed and dropped her head to his shoulder. “We can try like hell.” The doubt was heavy in her voice. “We’re both tough, we’re fighters. We can do this.”

“Yeah.” But a small part of him wondered if they were fighting a battle that had already been lost.


“So what now?” TJ asked after Harley had finished with the camera.

“The next camera.” She consulted the GPS and her maps. “I think I can hike to it and be back by nightfall.” She looked up and found him watching her.

They were still sitting side by side. Their thighs were touching. Purely by accident, she decided. The log they were sitting on wasn’t all that big.

But when he leaned close and offered her a bottle of water, there was nothing accidental about the zing that went straight through her body, making her thighs clench together. She looked up into his face to see if he noticed.

His eyes were on hers, deep and steady. And heated.

He’d noticed.

Fighting this, she reminded herself. Be tough. “Thanks,” she said quietly and set the water down.

“You need to stay hydrated.”

“I’m tired of peeing in the woods.”

“It’s not that bad.”

“Says the guy who gets to pee standing up without exposing vital parts.”

He slid her a look.

“Okay, so you have to expose one vital part.” One really vital part. “Big deal.”

He grinned and offered her dried mangoes and beef jerky from his pack.

“Thanks.” She dipped her hand into the bag.

TJ leaned forward to grab another water for himself and the length of their thighs pressed together again. She could have pulled free but she didn’t, and when he straightened back up, opening the bottle of water, his biceps brushed her arm and the side of her breast.

Her breath caught.

He drank long and deep, his throat working. He stopped when he sensed her staring at him and licked a drop of water off his upper lip. A small insect landed on his shoulder. Without thinking, Harley leaned in, pursed her lips, and blew.

TJ’s eyes went to her mouth. “What was that?”

“You had a bug. I blew it away.”

His eyes seemed to darken at the word “blew.” “Do me a favor.”

“I already owe you a…favor.”

His eyes smoldered at that. “There’s no debt between us, but don’t blow on me like that again unless you mean it.”

Okay, good to know. Suddenly parched herself, she drank some of her water, but not nearly as gracefully as he had, managing to dribble several drops down the front of her.

Both their gazes went to her chest. He made a noise, low in his throat as he exhaled.

“I’m messy,” she whispered.

His eyes lifted back to hers, heated. “I like messy.”

She took a gulp of air.

“What now?” he murmured.

Um, we forget the being tough thing and have wild sex against a tree? “We should find something to bicker about and fast.”

He laughed softly. “I meant regarding your work.”

Oh. Right. She struggled to concentrate. “East ridge.”

“There and back before nightfall, and then…”

“And then I hike home in the morning,” she said.

“You’re not a you. You’re a we.”

Until they get back. While they were out here. After that, it was back to real life. Suddenly she wished all the cameras were down and she had an excuse to stay out there with him for longer.

“What will you do when you get home?” he asked quietly.

She lifted a shoulder. “Keep working the research internship until spring.”

“And work long hours at the garage?”


“And worry about your parents. And your sister.”

“Yeah, and stress about whether or not taking the Colorado job is the right thing to do. It’s called life, TJ. You work long hours, you worry about your family. It’s what we do.”

“You’re questioning taking the Colorado job?”

Trust him to anchor in on the one thing really bothering her. “No.” She squeezed her eyes shut, then opened them. “Yes.”