“What happened?”

She lifted a shoulder. “I realize it wasn’t exactly a thing with Nolan, but to be honest, I was really looking forward to one.”

She said this so wistfully, he felt himself wanting to smile again. “Define thing. Because I’ve got a thing.”

She crossed her arms over her chest. “You’re right. I can feel the irritation torching calories as I stand here.”

“Tell me what happened.”

She looked down at her running shoes. He waited patiently for her to elaborate, but she managed to hold her silence. Gently he touched her jaw. “Let’s try a different angle. What’s going on with you and me?”

She lifted her gaze. “Well, that’s the big mystery, isn’t it?”

Yeah, and he knew the problem. From the moment he’d woken up in his sleeping bag with her, he’d known. She didn’t do casual sex. Never had. Even that one time with him hadn’t counted as casual, not in her head. He’d not allowed himself to dwell on the implications of that, or even how she’d feel, after what they’d shared in Desolation. He’d only thought of how he’d felt, which was easy-he’d felt turned-on as hell.

Still did.

“When Nolan stopped by, he-I tried to-” She swiped the sheen of sweat off her brow with her forearm and sighed. “I ended up giving him the ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ speech.”

TJ felt a twinge of sympathy for the guy. And relief. And an odd twinge of something else. Unease-which was asinine. He hadn’t wanted her with Nolan. And he didn’t want her single for yet another reason that he didn’t want to think about.

He was f**ked up.

She was looking at him, her eyes suddenly sharp. “Look at you, all worried that I’m going to set my sights on you now. Don’t worry, TJ. I know better.”

He opened his mouth, but when she arched a brow, he shut his mouth again. When it came to women and permanence, he’d never had what it took, and they both knew it.

Hell. He should have left well enough alone, let her have her “thing” with Nolan. She deserved it, and Nolan was a good guy. He’d have taken good care of her.

“Christ, TJ,” she said. “Get over yourself.”

Good plan. They stared at each other for a moment. “I’m sorry about Nolan,” he finally said. “Was it because of what happened between us?”

“No.” But she didn’t meet his gaze. “Because there was no us at Desolation.”

Yeah, that was his story, too. He wondered how long they could go on keeping that delusion. He pulled off his helmet and handed it to her.

“I’m not taking your helmet.”

“Yes, you are.”

“Look, I realize your head is impossibly hard and probably indestructible, but you still need the protection.”

“Okay, I didn’t want to go there,” he said evenly, doing his best not to smile. It was hard. Even when he was completely baffled by his emotions for her, she made him want to smile. A lot. Something to think about later. “You owe me.”

“I owe you?” she asked incredulously.

“Yes. And this is how you can repay me.”

“Let me get this straight,” she said. “You gave me an orgasm and I give you…wearing your helmet?”

“You don’t owe me for the orgasm. You owe me for something else.” He just smiled and held out the helmet.

Harley blinked at him, feeling off her axis. She told herself it was from what had happened earlier with Nolan, but she knew the truth. It was TJ, straddling his big, bad bike, looking like sin on a stick. He wore another pair of Levi’s, soft and faded, torn in one knee and the other thigh, along with a pair of battered boots, a long-sleeved pullover Henley, and mirrored sunglasses. She had to suck in all the air in the entire county to even look at him, and when she did, she ached with that nameless need again.

Oh, who was she kidding. It wasn’t nameless. It was lust, pure and simple. “What do I owe you for exactly?”

“Well, you were mad at me for a very long time.” He pushed his sunglasses to the top of his head. “Years.”

His eyes were the color of moss on a rainy spring day, and she lost herself in the warm heat of them for a minute.

“But as it turns out,” he said softly, “you didn’t really have a right to be mad. You withheld your friendship. I forgive you,” he said magnanimously, his eyes lit with good humor. He was teasing her! “But the least you can do is this one little favor.”

“I didn’t have a right to be mad?” she asked.

“You climbed into my truck. You seduced me. If anything, I should be mad at you.”

She choked out a laugh and slipped on the helmet. “You really are a nut.”

He grinned. “Just being your friend.”

There was that F-word again. “So which kind of friend today? My funny friend?”

“Again, I’d prefer to be-”

“Naked friend. Yeah, yeah.” She laughed instead of admitting that that was sounding pretty damn good. She put a hand on his broad shoulder, feeling the muscles beneath as she used him for balance to swung a leg over the bike. Behind him, she stared at the expanse of his back stretching his shirt and her mouth watered as she tried to hold herself away from him.

“You’re going to need to hold on,” he said.

“I’m all sweaty.”