“What’s that?” she asked, returning his smile. It was easy to smile at him. He was the kind of guy that inspired…comfortability. He’d moved here from San Francisco a year ago, though he still hadn’t lost the air of being “city.” He was slightly under six feet, and his rangy, runner’s body always looked good in his clothes. He wore dark jeans that had been professionally distressed, a pale blue button-down, and cool Vibram-soled shoes.

“Your paycheck,” he said, waiting patiently for her to step aside and let him in, unlike some men she knew who just barged in invited or not. That should probably be a pro for Nolan.

She took the envelope, knowing the number on it would be pathetically low, as she’d only managed to get in twenty hours. “You didn’t have to deliver it. I’m working tomorrow, I could have picked it up then.”

“I didn’t mind.” In her living room, he turned to face her, hesitated, then came close, his hands going to her arms. “Sorry about dinner the other night.”

“Me too.”

“We keep getting postponed.”

She nodded, and his body shifted a little closer, his eyes on hers. She realized he was going to kiss her. And she wanted him to.

Or she had, before Desolation.

No. Stop. Erase that. She still wanted his kiss. She wanted all of it. Passion. Heat. Love.


Nolan was the perfect candidate, sweet and loving and kind. He was a long-term candidate as well, a safe one. She let her eyes drift shut and quickly darted her lips with her tongue to moisten them, because there was nothing worse than having lips get stuck together, especially during a first kiss. Briefly she tried to remember which underwear she had on, and if it was cute or sexy. Or God forbid, if it was her laundry day underwear, because-

“Harley? You okay?”

She blinked and found Nolan’s face peering into her own, a bemused smile on his lips. “Yes, why?”

“You look like you’re thinking way too hard.”

“Nope. Not thinking.” She closed her eyes. “Mind’s empty. Carry on.” She sensed his smile. To help him along, she leaned into him, lips puckered as she wondered-did he kiss good? With tongue? Without? Or worse, with too much tongue. Her eyes flew open, and she found his lips nearly touching hers. “Oh! Sorry! Um, would you like some water? I’m really dry, I think I need some water.”

He opened his eyes. He didn’t sigh, but he looked like he was thinking about it. “I’m fine, thanks. Harley-”

“Hang on.” She whirled into the kitchen, moved to the cupboard for a glass, and set her forehead against the wood. What was that? You can do this, she told herself. You can be attracted to someone other than TJ. You can be attracted to Nolan. You were only a few days ago.


Almost yelping in surprise at the sound of him just behind her, she straightened and filled her glass at the sink. When she turned, Nolan was leaning back against the fridge, once again studying her with that slightly bemused expression.

She realized she caused that expression in men a lot.

“Better?” he asked as she drank.


Nodding, he came close again, his intent in his deep blue eyes.

Okay, Harley, this is your chance. A nice man. A good man. A long-term, happily-ever-after man. She let him take the glass from her, which he set in the sink. See, he’s neat, too, she told herself as he shifted closer, his eyes lit with pleasure, and then-and then the alien within her lifted her hand between them, halting his progress. “I forgot to get my mail today.”

He went still for a beat, then blinked. “And…you need to get it right now?”

Her heart was suddenly thundering. “Um…no. That would be silly.” She gripped his shirt and forcibly pulled him in. His hands went to her hips and his gaze dropped to her mouth. “Nolan?”

Again he stopped, his eyes suddenly flashing with both wry humor and resignment. “Are you thirsty again?”

“No,” she whispered miserably. “Worse.”

His smile faded but he remained gentle as he ran his hands up and down her arms. “It’s okay. It’s okay, Harley.”

“No, it’s not.” She closed her eyes, then felt the sweet press of his mouth on her forehead. “I’m sorry,” she whispered.

“You can’t fake chemistry,” he said.

“It’s not you, it’s me.”

He let out a soft, regretful laugh at the clichéd line, and she winced. “I mean-”

“I know.”

“God, I’m such a jerk.”

“No,” he said. “You’ve clearly got your mind on something else. Or someone else.” He paused thoughtfully at her grimace. “I heard you had a long two nights out there in Desolation.”


“And that TJ Wilder was your guide.”

She grimaced again. “Not guide, exactly.”

“Ah.” He let out another low laugh, this one mirthless, as he nodded, not looking thrilled. “So it is a someone.”

Dammit. “I don’t want there to be, trust me.” But unfortunately, her head and her heart were two very different beasts, with two very different tastes. “I’m really so very sorry.”

He opened his mouth just as Skye bounded in from outside. “Hi honey, I’m home!” she yelled, shutting the door, not yet looking into the kitchen. “I heard you and TJ Wilder had a romp worthy of his last name. It’s all over town that-” She turned, and her eyes nearly bugged out of her head at the sight of Nolan. Smile frozen, she gave him a little finger waggle. “Hi, Cute Stuff. Has Harley ever told you that I have a drinking problem? I’m coming off a three-day bender as we speak.”