She looked into his face, then snapped a picture of him, glancing down at her LED screen as the picture flashed there. His eyes readily revealed his intelligence, a sharp wit, and also an inner strength that never failed to give her a flutter. He had a strong face, a beautiful face, though he’d hate that assessment. Did she care to share that he turned her on like no other man ever had? Hell, no. “Inside joke,” she murmured.

He eyed the girls’ retreating backs, then Harley again. “You know sound carries over water, right?”

Oh, God. What part had he heard, that he was g*y, or that she wanted him for herself? She looked into his eyes, but couldn’t see anything but the gleam of promised retribution.

Definitely the g*y part. “One of us has to catch up with them.”

“Yes.” He let go of her. “I’ll do it. And I’ll catch up with you later.”

Oh boy.


When they stopped for lunch, TJ handled the kayaks and Harley dealt out lunch, serving the girls Annie’s pre-made sandwiches beneath the shade of a grove of two-hundred-year-old, towering pines.

Harley took herself off to the side, giving the coeds their privacy. Or, more accurately, giving Harley her privacy. TJ ambled over when he was done. “Well, that went well,” she said, handing him a big, thick turkey and cheese sandwich.

With an answer that was more of a grunt than affirmation, he plopped down next to her and dug in.

“Hungry?” she asked, amused at his single-minded purpose of devouring the sandwich.

“Even g*y men get hungry.”

Oh, yeah. She’d almost forgotten. “If it helps, they didn’t believe me.”

“I wish they had. I’d rather be g*y than the boy toy of the month. You should have just told them that we were together. That would have worked.”

She opened her mouth and then closed it. And then went on the defensive rather than figure out why his easy solution irritated her. “Must be exhausting to fend off four beautiful young women’s advances.”

Fend them off he had, with more calm, impassive pleasantry than she could have managed. “I mean sure, they want to eat you up,” she said. “You might have gotten groped a few times getting in and out of the water, but overall, it’s been easy enough to handle, right?”

He just looked at her as he swallowed the last of his sandwich.

She grinned. “How many times did you get groped, anyway?”

“I don’t know, but I’m bruised. You’re supposed to be watching my back.”

Yes, but she’d been very busy watching his ass. “You really don’t feel anything when they come on to you like that?”

He eyed the uneaten portion of her sandwich. “I feel the urge to wrap my fingers around Cam’s and Stone’s neck.”

She laughed again and handed him the rest of her sandwich.

His eyes warmed. His lips curved as he took her in. “I love it when you laugh,” he said simply.

Damn if that didn’t make her go all soft and mushy. “You do know they think you’re God’s gift, that they each hope you’ll go alpha and domineering on them in their sleeping bags tonight?”

“How about you? Do you want me to go alpha and domineering in your sleeping bag tonight?” he asked, his voice low and husky.

Heat slashed through her, and her gaze ran over his body, all sprawled out and gorgeous. He hadn’t put on another shirt. All he wore were those board shorts and a smile. The smile revealed a wicked intent. The board shorts, low and loose on his lean hips, revealed the fact that he could absolutely follow through with that wicked intent.

“See anything you want?” he murmured.

“No. Absolutely not.” She turned her back to him and hugged her knees to her chest, watching the river, letting out a low, shaky breath when she knew he could no longer see her face.

“Okay, let’s recap.” He ran a finger over her shoulder. “You don’t want me-”

“As a boyfriend,” she clarified. Because she did want him. She wanted him bad. She just didn’t want to keep him. She couldn’t. He was a walking, talking, breathing heartbreak. “I don’t want you as a boyfriend.”


“Because you don’t want to be a boyfriend. Plus, you read my list, you saw-”

“Right. I’m not…what did you call Nolan? Sweet, steady, and stable.”

She closed her eyes. “Yeah.” But the truth was, in spite of the rough-and-tumble readiness, the jagged edges to him, he was those things. Sweet. Steady. Stable.

Which meant that she was another S altogether-screwed.

After lunch, they headed down a relatively easy section of the river, floating so slowly Harley could have gotten out and pushed faster. There were no waves, no tumbling rapids, nothing. The water was so flat that the tip of the kayak didn’t even rise and fall.

TJ was out in front, his kayak gliding sure and smooth. Behind him, the four girls laughed and giggled and talked about whatever flitted through their heads. Taking up the rear, Harley could see and hear all, not that the girls were trying to keep their voices down.

“Look at his arms,” Kitty whispered across the water with a dreamy sigh.

No doubt. TJ had the best arms Harley had ever seen. She’d been taking some pictures and found her lens focused in on them, taut, tanned, and glistening.

“I know!” Kitty said. “Someone rip my top off. That’ll get his attention.”