“I never get tired of the view,” she murmured, reading his mind.

“Me either. Annie framed that shot you took of Granite Flats. She’s hanging it in the lodge reception room. It’s an amazing shot, Harley.”


Taking her hand, accepting the little frisson of awareness that zinged through his body, he tugged her back to the table. “Show me your route.”

“So you know where to find my body?”

He shot her a level look, and she flashed him a smile. He loved her smile, it was wide and warm and rare, and he found himself smiling back helplessly. “Take someone with you.”

“Who? You?”

“Why not?”

“Don’t you have another big trip coming up?”

“I do. A four-week trip across the Canadian Divide in about ten days. But I have time for this. All you have to do is ask.”

She was silent, either too proud to ask, or hell, maybe she really didn’t want his help. He ran his thumb over the pulse point at the base of her wrist and felt it leap. “I’ve spent a lot of time being baffled by your prickliness with me, but not, I don’t think, enough to wonder why. Until now.” He met her gaze. “Why, Harley?”

“I’m prickly with everyone.”

Maybe. But beneath his fingers her pulse had picked up speed. Behind that irritation she wore like a coat, he did affect her, maybe every bit as much as she affected him.

“I’ll ask someone,” she said quietly.

“But not me. You don’t want it to be me.”


His lips curved. “Another lie,” he murmured. “You’re racking them up. Your nose is going to start growing.”

She pushed free of him and paced the length of the kitchen, which meant she got about five feet before turning around and smacking right into the hard wall of TJ’s chest. He stood there, filling the kitchen with his larger-than-life presence, making the room seem even smaller than it was.

“Want me to tell you what I think?” he asked.

“Are you going to agree with me about the trip?”


“Then no.”

He smiled, laugh lines fanning out from his sharp green eyes. “Still stubborn.”

“And you’re still…” She couldn’t think of an insult. With an annoyed huff, she moved toward the front door and opened it for him. “Thanks for coming. We’ll have to do it again sometime. Buh-bye now.”

TJ smiled, reached over her head, and shut the door. “Let’s do it again now.”

She thunked her head against the wood. She felt him lightly run his fingers down her spine, which caused a sensuous shiver, but when he spoke, the amusement was gone from his voice, replaced by a gut-wrenching gentleness. “Harley, why didn’t you tell me you needed money?”

Oh, God. “I-”

The phone rang, saving her pride, and she leapt for it, then hesitated, standing there in front of the answering machine.

At the third ring, TJ raised a brow. “You going to get that?”

“I’m trying to decide.”

The machine clicked on and Harley’s voice invited the caller to do their thing at the beep, and then her landlord’s voice filled the small apartment.

“Harley Stephens, you’re avoiding me.”

Crap. Harley hit the volume button, but not in time to avoid her landlord’s next line.

“You are ten days late on rent, missy. I need-”

Harley smacked the volume again and again, until the voice could no longer be heard.

Gaping silence.

Her back was still to TJ, so she closed her eyes and wished for a nice big hole to vanish into. “Don’t say it.” Without meeting his gaze, she tried to move around him, but once again his hands came up to hold her in place. She could snap at him or shove him, but the truth was, she liked his touch.

Too much.

Which told her just how bad off she was. She really needed some one-on-one naked time with a guy. Preferably someone who didn’t make her think too much, didn’t have the potential to obliterate her heart, and who wouldn’t expect anything from her.


“Harley,” TJ said softly, interrupting her thoughts, something more in his voice than she wanted to hear.

“Look, as fun as this has been-”

“Harley.” He paused, and she heard him take a deep breath before continuing. “If you couldn’t tell me, then why not Annie, or Stone, or Cam? You know how much they care about you.”

Her throat felt tight, far too tight to talk. “It’s temporary.”

He pulled out his wallet and emptied all of his cash onto the counter. “Not temporary.”

“I don’t need-”

“Consider it an advance. We need an assist on upcoming trips. There’s three this weekend. Take your pick; a biking trip, a kayaking trip, or guiding a group of hikers up Eagle Falls to jig for halibut and cast for salmon. Your choice. Hell, for that matter, get your feet wet on one of those, and then come with me on my next long trek.”

“Those treks take you at least a month.” A month of thirty long nights. Given her entirely inappropriate and extremely annoying habit of yearning and burning for him, God only knew what would happen.

Reading her mind, he let out a wicked smile that made her ni**les harden. Firmly, she put one finger on the money and pushed it back across the counter at him.