“Katie, it’s me. I sort of need a new employment application, I got…something on the back page and-”

“Yes! You’re going to forget Colorado and stay here.”

“Actually, I won’t know if I even got the Colorado job until spring.”

“But TJ said you’re a shoo-in for it.”

“Well, I hope that’s true. But in the meantime, I’m filling in with you guys as needed.”

“Oh, you’re needed. I’ll have another application out and ready for you.”

“Thanks.” Harley drew a breath. “Listen, about the kayaking trip…”

“Not much to tell yet. The departure date’s only tentatively set for next week. TJ’s waiting on the client, and on some sort of special permit he needs to get on to a parcel of private land because this time they’re going to be climbing some peak that-”

“Whoa.” Harley shook her head. “I meant tomorrow’s trip. What are you talking about?”

“We just took on two big Alaska trips. TJ’s going to take both. One is a partial kayaking thing. I thought that’s what you were talking about.”

Okay, so TJ was usually gone more than he stuck around. She knew that. Everyone knew that.

And yet she’d allowed herself to forget. “He mentioned he might be leaving.”

“Yes.” Some of the smile went out of Katie’s voice. “But then again, eventually so are you.”

Right. Yes. Yes, she was.

Katie was quiet a minute. “Harley, I know you two have been…different lately. Closer.”

Harley found she couldn’t get her throat to work, so she nodded, which was ridiculous, as Katie couldn’t see her.

“You know,” Katie said very quietly. “I’m going to step out on a limb here and give you some advice on the Wilder men.”

“Not necessary.”

“They’re big and bad and strong,” Katie said anyway. “Mind and body. You know that. They’re tough, capable, and…well, sexy as hell. You know that, too.”


“But they’re also a little slow on the uptake. It’s not their fault really. They barely had a childhood, and certainly had no softness in their lives. I mean they had Annie, but hell, she’s as tough as they are.”

“You don’t have to tell me,” Harley said. “I grew up with them. I know-”

“Do you? Do you know that if you want him, all you have to do is tell him? Because he grew up where there was no unconditional love, where being cared about was rare. You’re going to literally have to hit him over the head with love, Harley. And to do that, you’re going to have to put yourself out there.”


“I mean you have to step on the edge of the cliff, toes hanging off, and take the plunge. It’s the only thing he’ll understand.” Katie’s voice gentled. “I know it seems terrifying, especially for you. You’ve been through a lot, too, and you’re careful. You like to think things out. Hello, you’re a research specialist, it’s what you do. But in this case, all you need is faith. If you make the jump, he will catch you.”

Harley swallowed the huge lump in her throat. “That seems like a huge leap of faith.”

“Trust me, it’s worth it.”

Harley closed her eyes and let herself pretend for a minute that it could be that easy. “Fact is, we’re soon to be geographically incompatible, so really, there’s no leap to make.”

“Honey, there’s always a leap to make. Just think about it.”

After promising to do just that, Harley disconnected and cleaned up her table. Not wanting to wake Skye, but feeling restless, she opened her front door, planning to sit on the front porch with a mug of tea.

Instead, she stared down at the large plastic bag with a big green bow on it.

“Is it Christmas?”

Harley turned and faced a groggy-looking Skye, who smiled sleepily and took the mug to sip for herself. “Yum. Who left you the present?”

“Don’t know.” Harley sat next to it and pulled off the small folded piece of paper taped to it. The paper was notepad sized and imprinted with WILDER ADVENTURES across the top. In pen was TJ’s unmistakable scrawl. He’d written:

Your own magic bag of goodies.

“Bag of goodies?” Skye took another sip of Harley’s tea. “Think it’s full of sex toys?”

Harley choked out a laugh.

“Because if it is, wow. And I bet he knows how to use all the good stuff, too.”


“What, you think the guy doesn’t know his way around a sex toy? Please. He’s a walking orgasm.”

Harley felt her face heat. Yes. Yes, he was.

Skye arched a brow. “Something you want to share with the class?”

What could Harley possibly say? That every single time he’d gotten his hands on her she’d gone up in flames with embarrassing, horrifying, shocking ease?

Skye pulled her lips inward as if greatly amused. “You’re blushing.”

“I am not.”

“You told me nothing happened. I’m no longer buying it, Harl.” She continued to eye her sister speculatively. “So you did do it with the sexiest Wilder of them all? Holy smokes, and to think I believed you when you said I interrupted you guys before anything happened because you’re such a prude, but-”