“Tell me.”

“Maybe…maybe the research position is the wrong angle. Maybe being out here fulfills me like it does you.” She met his gaze. “What do you think?” she asked, honestly wanting to hear what he’d do, even though a part of her already knew. He’d do what was right, not necessarily what was easy. Taking the job, if it was offered, was the easy route. Figuring out what would fulfill her, what would make her happy, would be better.

He looked at her for a long moment. “It’s your decision to make.”

“Thanks. You’ve been a big help.”

“I think you already know what you want to do. I think you know you want to be out here and not at a desk, but you’re worrying about everyone other than yourself. That, or you’re scared.”

“Of what?”

“Of admitting you don’t always have the answers. Of disappointing yourself. Of making a mistake. Of taking a real risk. Hell, I don’t know, Harley, pick one.”

How about all of the above?

His smile was gentle. “Sorry you asked?”

“Hard to be, when you’re right.”

“I like being right.” He reached for her hand and entwined their fingers. “Think of yourself, for once, Harley. Do what works for you.”

Her throat went a little tight. “TJ?”


“Do you really think we can do this? Be friends? After all this time?”

He let out a low, deep breath, but surprised her by giving her an honest answer. “I want to think so.”

Well, that was something at least.

“But you’ll have to stop talking about blow jobs.”

“All I did was blow away a bug!”

“I think it’s the word blow.” He shifted as he thought about it, then nodded. “Yeah. It is.”

She rolled her eyes as his phone vibrated, then watched as his good humor vanished as he took the call. “What is it?” She asked when he was done.

“Search and Rescue. There are two people missing from Red Rock as of last night.”

“Red Rock…”

“About three hours north of here by foot.” He looked at her, clearly conflicted. He didn’t want to leave her alone, but this was his job.

“Go,” she said. “They need you. I’ll be fine.”

“You’re just going out to that east ridge and back to the same spot for the night, yes?”

“Yes. And then home in the morning. I’ll probably be back in town before you. I’ll be fine.”

Still he hesitated.

“TJ, go. Don’t worry. You’ve taught me some good tricks.”

He opened his pack and lifted his Maglite. “You have one of these?”

She rolled her eyes. “Yes.”

“Extra batteries?”

“Uh huh.” Somewhere.

“Enough food and water?”

“TJ, I’m a big girl. I won’t be a responsibility to you.”

“You’re not a job to me, Harley,” he said, his voice low and serious. “You’re much more than that. Here.” He handed her the magic goodie bag from his pack.

Her heart tugged hard, but she tried to hide it behind a quip. “Aw, your dental floss and Fritos. How sweet.”

“Smart-ass.” He went to take the bag back, but she grabbed it and hugged it to her. Then she shifted close. “Thanks,” she whispered, letting him see that she meant it. Going up on tiptoes, she set her hands on his biceps and kissed his jaw.

At the contact, he closed his eyes, as if her touch meant something to him. His arms came around her hard, and he pressed his face into her hair. They stayed like that for a moment, frozen in time, and it wasn’t until she finally pulled away that his eyes locked with hers.

And she froze again, barely breathing as his hand came up and trailed his fingers across her temple, over her throat, down her arm, where he took her hand and squeezed. “You’re welcome,” he said just as softly, then kissed her, his mouth warm as he lingered for only a second before pulling away. He reached into the bag he’d given her and showed her the mace. “Shake hard to activate it if you have to use it. And trust me on this-stand upwind.”


He handed her something else. “A stun gun. Although if you get close enough to a bear or a pissed-off pack of coyotes to need it, you’d better mean business.” He showed her how to use it, then looked at her for a long moment. “Harley-”

“I’m going to be fine.”

“Yeah, you will. That’s not what I was going to say.” He waited until she looked at him, until she could see the seriousness of his expression. “Don’t be timid. If you feel like you’re being watched, or your instincts start screaming about anything, have this in hand. Promise me.”

She paused, then nodded.

“Give me your cell.”


He just held out his hand.

Quandary. She had a feeling she knew what he wanted with it. He wanted to put his number in. Thing was, she already had it, and didn’t really want him to see.


With a sigh, she caved and slapped the phone into his big palm.

He flicked it open. “I want you to call me if you have any problems.”

“There won’t be.” She watched him thumb through her contacts and began to panic. He was going to see…