One corner of his mouth slowly curved up. “Like the naked kind?”

A laugh bubbled out of her at his hopeful tone. “Maybe we should go with the kind that doesn’t necessarily ignore or bicker.”

He let out a breath. “Not as good as Naked Friends.”

No, it wasn’t. And that thought shimmered between them for the rest of the hike back.


Back at the lodge the next day, TJ was sitting at his desk, not at all happy. A few kittens were working on his shoelaces as he went through a mountain of paperwork that Stone had deemed his to handle. Normally he got through such a boring task by fantasizing. The fantasies varied in length and levels of sexual explicitness, depending on his mood. Could be a stacked brunette on her knees beneath his desk one day, or a curvy redhead riding his motorcycle in nothing but thigh-high boots the next.

But today his fantasy wasn’t make-believe. He had a specific face in his head, a very specific woman.


In a sleeping bag-

He hissed out a breath when a gray kitten climbed up his leg. He no sooner extracted her claws out of his skin when her sister did the same thing to his other leg.

“Mew.” The soft cry was accompanied by the sweet batting of clear baby blue eyes.

“Try ouch.” He plopped both kittens to the floor. Where was he? Oh yeah, fantasizing about Harley…Doing so was even better since their trip, because thanks to Desolation he knew exactly how her soft skin felt under his fingertips, beneath his tongue. He knew how she squirmed when he kissed the spot beneath her ear, how her breathing changed when he stroked his fingers between her thighs, and he knew how she sounded when she came, those sexy-as-hell breathy little whimpers driving him right out of his mind.

Christ. He shifted in his chair and nearly stepped on a kitten. Bending, he pulled them both out from beneath his desk, set them on his chest, and looked at them.

They stared back up at him solemnly. “I’m not fooled,” he said. “You’re both menaces to society.”

They yawned in innocent tandem. Innocent his ass. They’d destroyed three important files and dumped his trash in the last five minutes alone. With a sigh, he set them back down and they curled up in a pile and went to sleep; cute and dangerous.

Like Harley. He’d told her he could fall hard and deep, and he’d been completely serious.

“TJ? Line two,” Katie called from down the hall. “Prospective hiree.”

They’d had the ad in the paper for weeks, and so far they’d gotten no serious contenders. This guy was no different. Within two minutes TJ figured out he’d never hiked or climbed above seven thousand feet and had no winter experience. That wasn’t going to work, not in the Sierras, where most of their climbs were well over seven thousand feet-try ten thousand-and in certain years, winter could last for six months out of the twelve.

TJ hung up and went back to the Mt. Everest of paperwork in front of him. It wasn’t even noon and already he was bored off his ass. By evening he’d be in the loony bin.

Stone came in and dropped into the chair in front of TJ’s desk. “Little glitch. In two days, Cam and I each have a trek.”


“So someone let Annie answer the phone, and she accepted an unscheduled two-day kayak trip down Snake River.”


“And you’re going to have to take it.”

“Why is that a glitch?”

“Because it’s the sort of trip that probably we should send Cam on so that Katie could go with him, but he’s already inked on a project, and he was specifically requested.”

“Still not seeing the problem.”

Stone’s eyes were laughing, but his mouth didn’t so much as twitch. “It’s four sorority girls. Cal Berkeley students looking to experience nature on the river. They want to see deer, rabbits, and wildflowers, that sort of thing.”

“Disney does Snake River?”

“Not exactly Disney. Sorority sisters. Which means it’ll be more like Girls Gone Wild in the Wild.”

Ah, hell. They’d been down that road. “You mean they want to be scared shitless while living their version of the Blair Witch project in the big, bad, wild Sierras.”

“Yep.” Stone stopped trying to hide his smile. “And have a big, bad wild trek guide there to protect them.”

“Christ.” TJ shook his head. Those trips had been lots of fun several years back, but somewhere along the way they’d lost their entertainment value. “I’m not taking that one alone.”

“Agreed,” Stone said, opening his phone.

“What are you doing?”

“Booking you a co-guide. A biologist and a photographer. Harley,” he said when TJ just stared at him.

TJ opened his mouth to protest, then shut it again. “Just two nights?”

“Surely you can handle four coeds for that long.”

“Yeah.” Except it wasn’t the coeds that worried him.

Harley was once again attempting to balance her bank account when her cell phone vibrated. It’d been buzzing on and off all day. Seemed she and TJ had been seen coming off the mountain together and word had gotten out. Just about everyone she knew had called her to ask if TJ Wilder was as good as women claimed.

Since she happened to know he was even better than good-try amazing-she wasn’t in a great mood. So when her cell buzzed for the dozenth time, she picked it up and said “I’m not talking about the time I spent with the Wilder sex god, and you can’t make me.”