“Humor me.” He narrowed his gaze on her screen. “You have Stone and Cam in here, but not me.”

She winced and tried to grab the phone back. Better he think that than find the truth. “I’ll add you.”

But instead of handing her the phone, he punched in his number himself, then went to save it, only as she knew it would, it came up as an existing number. “Um-” she started. “I…”

Too late. He was staring at the screen. “I am in here.”

Crap. She bit her lower lip. “Yeah.”

He cut his eyes to hers. “Under Sexy Jerk?”

She finally managed to snatch her phone back. “Should have seen it last month when you brought that leggy brunette chick into Moody’s for a game of pool,” she said with a defensive jerk of her shoulder.

TJ was looking at her, eyes unfocused as he tried to remember, because apparently he knew too many leggy brunettes. Then suddenly, he smiled. “She was a client.”

That hadn’t seemed to matter. What had mattered was that they’d clearly just been riding mountain bikes, and still in their gear, they’d been all hot and sweaty and laughing. “You were listed as Butthead, then.”

His lips twitched. “Good to know I’m moving up in your world.”

“I’ll change it again.”

He didn’t look excited about that. “Yes, but to what?”

Good question.


TJ caught up with Stone and the rest of the Search and Rescue team at Red Rock. Stone handed TJ a bag of gear and TJ dropped his pack and crouched down to reload. “What’s the story?”

“Two teens.” Stone’s expression was grim. “Vanished at first light two days ago. They were camping with their parents and another family.”

TJ grunted in acknowledgement as he worked. “They take anything with them?”

“Daddy’s flask.”

Shit. “Okay, let’s get this the hell over with.” When he looked up from preparing his gear, he found Stone staring down at him. “What?”

“Get this the hell over with? You love this stuff. Plus you weren’t even on a job. What’s the matter, we pull you away from something good?”

Since Stone knew damn well what TJ had been doing, he didn’t bother to respond.

In spite of the seriousness of the situation, Stone crouched at TJ’s side and took a moment out to give his brother some shit. “Would it have anything to do with a certain research biologist we both know and love?”

When TJ didn’t answer that either, instead just continuing to switch his gear from one pack to the other, shoving things in without taking his usual care, Stone grinned. “Aw, man, look at you all flustered. You’re really in a hurry to get back.”

TJ surged to his feet and shouldered his pack. “Shut up.”

Stone barked out a low laugh. “No can do. Plan of action?”

“Securing your big, fat mouth.”

“You mean keeping me from telling Emma, Annie, Nick, and Cam that you’re so caught up with a certain hot sexy blonde that you didn’t organize your backpack with meticulous care?”

TJ flipped him the bird and walked away.

Stone easily caught up, a stupid grin on his ugly mug. “Oh, I’m going to enjoy this even more than I thought.”

“The rescue?”

“Watching you make a fool of yourself over a woman.”

“Never going to happen.”

“There you go, tempting karma again.”

Harley made it to the east ridge and back by early evening, with an hour or so of daylight to spare. She’d had no surprises along the way, for which she was grateful, and had been able to replace the bad battery pack on the camera.

It’d been another warm Indian summer day. When she got back to where she and TJ had spent the night before, it took her about one minute to decide she wanted to bathe in the creek. Stripping felt a little brazen, but she hadn’t seen or heard signs of another soul, so she decided to brave it.

When she was done, she sat at the cliff to watch the sun set, hoping to catch a glimpse of the coyotes. As dusk fell, she heard the yips and watched breathlessly as first one, then two, then three coyotes appeared in that last motionless beat between daylight and nightfall.

As they tipped their heads up and began their nightly howls, goose bumps rose on her skin at the eerie beauty. She took as many pictures as she could until the light was completely gone, and then suddenly the coyotes were gone, too, and she was utterly alone.

And that’s when it hit her, when she realized that she had an entire night to get through by herself. Time for a rip-roaring fire.

But to her frustration, she couldn’t get it to light, not even with one of TJ’s magic Fritos under the kindling. Chip number two didn’t work either, nor chip number twelve.

So she sat in the growing dark and ate them. She ate them all, and when they were gone, her stomach hurt.

And it was really dark.

What now? She’d never been the girl to call for help. The path of needing someone had always irritated her. It reminded her of her mom, much as she loved the woman. Harley liked to depend on no one but herself.

But that path seemed like a cold one tonight. She blew out a breath, pulled out her cell phone, scrolled through her contacts for the Sexy Jerk-she really needed to change that-and called him.

“Miss me already?” he asked in a quiet voice, as if maybe he wasn’t alone.