Of course she wanted it.

Didn’t she?


“Yeah,” she said absently. “I want it.”

“Good.” Skye tipped her bowl up to her mouth and drank the leftover milk. “Since you’ll be gone, I have a question.”

“Yes, you can have my truck. I’m going to need to buy a newer one.”

“Actually, I was going for something different. Something less…inanimate.”


“Like Nolan.”

Harley blinked.

“Are you mad?” Skye asked.

“Nolan,” Harley repeated. “And you.”

“I know, he seems so…tame for me, right? But I have a feeling that beneath that easygoing exterior beats the heart of a real tiger.”

“But you’re leaving, too. You’re going to the city.”

“Which is only like three hours away. Far enough that I have plenty of space, yet close enough for wild animal sex on the weekends. Jeez, Harley, these days no one lets long distance keep a relationship down.”

TJ stood in his bedroom packing for the early morning flight to Seattle, then Anchorage. He’d made this particular Alaska trip at least a dozen times. It was a combination rock and mountain climbing/guided trek, and it required a high level of expert skill from his client. Normally for a trip like this, TJ would take clients out on a shorter trek first to prove their skills, but in this case, Colin West was a repeat client. He and TJ had taken the exact same trip three years ago.

Colin was a forty-year-old surgeon who rock climbed in his spare time. The reason the trip was so last minute was because he was supposed to be getting married to his longtime girlfriend Lydia that weekend, but he’d panicked.

And he’d needed an escape.

TJ had just had a late dinner at the lodge. Annie had cooked all his favorites, joking that by the time he got back she wouldn’t be able stay on her feet that long. Hell, she’d probably not even be able to see her feet. When he’d laughed and agreed, she smacked him on the back of his head. Then hugged him good-bye so tight that he’d had to check his ribs afterwards for cracks. Katie and Emma had sandwiched him with hugs as well, and he pulled them both in close, smirking over their heads at his brothers when he got lots of kisses, too.

“Hands off my woman,” Stone said mildly, and pulled Emma from him.

So TJ had held onto Katie, the both of them laughing when Cam yanked her free as well.

Then he’d been left alone in the kitchen with Annie and Nick, who were locked in each other’s arms against the counter. Annie was nuzzling Nick’s throat, and he had a hand curled low and protective on her belly, a look on his face that could only be described as bliss.

TJ walked out the back door without them even realizing he was gone. Back in his cabin, he finished packing, then stood in the middle of the living room he’d built with Cam and Stone. The place was small but the high, open-beamed ceilings made it seem much larger than it was, aided by the large picture windows. Still, it was big enough for him, and comfortable, especially since he was hardly ever home for more than a week at a time. Anyway, it’d always felt like more of a place to stay than home. He’d never really thought about that before. The cabin was more a part of his journey than his destination.

There came a soft knock on his door. Figuring it was someone named Wilder, he called out, “it’s open,” but to his surprise, Harley walked in.

And his heart kicked hard.


Harley gave up trying to explain to herself why she needed to drive out to TJ’s the night before he left. There were no words for what she needed. There were only the feelings that he’d accused her of trying to avoid.

Fat chance of truly being successful at that. She’d been feeling something for him in one form or another for too many years to count.

But apparently, for once, he didn’t have words either. He stood in the doorway between his kitchen and the living room, arms up and braced on the oak doorjamb, looking dead sexy.

And dead set on letting her make the first move.

It was her move. She knew that.

He wore a pair of ragged old basketball shorts that fell to his knees and nothing else. His hair was in need of a trim, and it tumbled over his forehead, curling onto his neck. His expression, usually calm and easy, usually amused or getting there, was something else entirely, something she’d not seen from him before.

Hollow. Bleak.

She stepped close, her heart dropping. “What’s wrong?”

He let out a low, mirthless laugh and didn’t answer. Nor did he move.


“Why are you here, Harley?”

Not expecting that grim, unwelcoming response, she hesitated, nearly turning tail and running. But he cared for her, she reminded herself. Deeply. He’d shown it a hundred times. In that way, maybe in all ways, he was far braver than she.

That stopped now. She became brave now. Stepping toe-to-toe with him, she put her hands on his chest. As his gaze met hers, she let her hands slide down his ribs, to the abs that she never got tired of touching. “Are you okay?”


Her fingers got to the tie on his shorts and she saw awareness flare in his eyes.

And surprise.

She couldn’t blame him. For the most part, he’d always been the first to touch. Okay, not just for the most part. Always. He’d always been the first to touch.

That had been her own stupid fear. Fear of rejection. Fear of not being enough. Of being hurt…