“Take off your shirt,” she commanded softly, wielding antiseptic and gauze.

“I like it when you get all bossy.” He yanked his shirt over his head and smiled as her ni**les hardened and pressed against her white, long-sleeved T-shirt. Nice view.

She ignored him and once again made the antiseptic her friend, going for the largest cut on the underside of his forearm first. He hissed in a breath and she winced as if she hurt for him. Then she lifted the gauze, bent her head, and blew softly.

Good Christ. “What did I tell you about that?”

“That wasn’t foreplay. I’m nursing you.”

“Yeah, well, my brain’s fuzzy on the difference.”

She shook her head, probing at the cut. “This one looks deep enough for stitches, TJ.”

“Butterfly me up. I’ll have Emma look at it when we get back.”

“Speaking of Emma, why didn’t you go straight home?”

Good question. It was one he’d asked himself more than a few times during his not so pleasant, hard-as-hell middle-of-the-night hike back there. Stone had flat out laughed his ass off at him for skipping the helicopter ride home to come there instead. “I wanted to make sure you were okay.”

“According to you,” she said, “you already knew I would be. So the question stands. Why?”

Because he cared about her. He might as well deal with that. She cared, too, in spite of trying to keep her distance. She cared deeply, and they both knew it.

In a world where he was often the one in charge, where he was the one doing all the caring, it felt good.

“It’s almost dawn,” she said softly when he didn’t answer. “I want to watch the meadow as light hits.”

“From the ridge?”


He grabbed his pack. “I’ll meet you there.”

“Where are you going?”

“To the creek to clean up.”

Her eyes tracked the length of his body, which seemed to affect her breathing.

“Not too late to soap my back,” he told her.

She backed up a step. “I think you can handle it.”

“Keeping your distance?”

Her eyes were filled with heat and hunger. For him. Of that, he had no doubt. But there was also a healthy amount of worry and self-preservation there.

And just a tinge of something that stopped him cold.

Fear. He understood it, though he hated it. He’d hurt her once before, all those years ago, and no matter what she said, she hadn’t forgotten. That he hadn’t known, that he would have done things differently if he had known, didn’t change the fact that he’d caused her pain.

“That’s what the instincts are telling me,” she whispered.

He stood up, looking down at her. She’d bowed her head so he couldn’t see her expression. “Harley.” When she tipped up her face, he ran a gentle finger over her jaw. “Always go with your instincts.”

While TJ was gone, Harley sat before the fire pit and tried to think clearly. Here’s what she knew. She’d alternately resented TJ and crushed on him for years. But the resentment was gone.

And that, she was discovering, was dangerous.

So damn dangerous.

Because it left only the crush.

Unable to sit, she got up and walked. She’d only meant to pace around the fire pit, but her feet took her to the creek.

Bad feet.

TJ stood at the creek’s edge, his back to her. He’d clearly just gotten out. His hair was wet, and a few scattered drops of water dotted his broad, sinewy back.

Even knowing it was rude, she couldn’t take her eyes off him. No shirt, jeans riding low on those narrow hips, hair wet and messy, he sat on a rock to tug on clean socks. The muscles in his back bunched and worked as he pulled on his shoes.

Heat slashed low in Harley’s belly and spread to all her good spots, and she quickly turned back the way she’d come, back to where she’d slept. She plopped onto the log and was still huffing and puffing when TJ silently and suddenly appeared at her side.

Nearly leaping out of her skin, she jumped up and put a hand to her chest.

He smiled. “What are you doing?”

“Nothing. I was just…nothing.”

A soft laugh said he’d made her as a liar. “I heard you go running like a bat out of hell. What’s the matter, Harley, see something that bothered you?”

Yes. Yes, she was bothered. Hot and bothered. “The big bad wolf.”

He laughed again. “Should have stayed and let me show you what big…teeth I have.”

His hair was still damp and he smelled like soap. He’d pulled on a Wilder Adventures hoodie sweatshirt. He crouched at her side, his arms resting on his thighs, his body language calm and easy. “About last night. Did you hear anything out of the norm?”

She looked into his eyes, the sudden seriousness of his expression making her tummy tighten. “Oh, God. Why?”

He didn’t answer.

“Not another dead coyote?” Please, not another one.

He shook his head and lifted an empty white Styrofoam cup, complete with lid and straw.

“Trash? Where did you find that?”

“On the opposite side of the clearing from where I came in.” He paused, his eyes on hers, still calm, but just behind it, she could sense anger. “It wasn’t here when I left you.”

She let out a low breath. So someone had been with her last night, watching her. “Another hiker?”