T.J. Wilder is the perfect package of breathtaking adventure and raw sex appeal. Even better, he’s about to reconnect with the one woman he’s never been able to forget…
Get Your Pulse Racing
To Harley, the landscape around Wishful, California, is exhilarating, untamed, and more than a little dangerous. The same could be said for T.J. Wilder, who’s invited himself along on her trek to study a rare coyote. Harley’s career is riding on this trip, and she doesn’t need a stubborn, incredibly sexy distraction tagging along. But T.J. is a professional guide who knows when to stay back and when to provide invaluable expertise—just like he’s done since they were in high school. And Harley, as usual, is torn between throttling him and giving in to the raw attraction that’s been smoldering all these years.
After waiting so long, it’s all about timing…
“Shalvis writes with humor, heart, and sizzling heat!” —Carly Phillips
“Fast paced and deliciously fun. Sweeps you away.” —Cherry Adair Prologue
If you asked TJ Wilder to choose between a warm autumn
night in the Sierras or a warm woman, he knew that most people
would put money on him taking the woman.
And while that might have been true in his wild, unchecked
youth, tonight they’d have been wrong.
Not that he didn’t love women. He did. Short or tall. Willowy
or curvy. Sweet or hot-as-hell sexy—actually, make that especially
hot-as-hell sexy. Over the years he’d loved plenty.
Yet he loved the Sierras, too. While it was true that the tall,
rugged, remote mountain peaks could be deadly dangerous to
both life and limb, the mountains couldn’t break a man’s soul.
At least not without permission.
TJ no longer let anything break him. He didn’t let anything
break him or get to him, period. He was cool, calm, and prepared,
always. Cam and Stone had long ago accepted, that as the oldest
brother, TJ just knew things, like which direction to go on the
mountain whether on skis or a bike, or in the helicopter. He knew
which of their outdoor expedition clients would be a pain in the
ass, and he could sense trouble a mile away.
But, as he walked through Moody’s Bar And Grill after a quick
dinner with Cam and Stone, feeling full and surprisingly content
for the moment, something plowed into his chest with the force
of a cyclone.
Not something. Someone.
Harley Stephens—the one source of trouble he’d never managed
Absorbing the impact, he prevented them both from tumbling
to the floor, and as his brain registered how warm and soft she
felt in his arms, she lifted her face, the scent of her filling his
head. That’s when something else hit him, too, the same inexplicable
sense that he always got with her, the déjà vu feeling that
he’d been there before. Not there in the doorway of Moody’s
with the fiery Indian summer sun setting behind her and the
sound of the dinner crowd behind him, loud and rowdy ...but
there, as in having her practically wrapped around him.
Which made about as much sense as the head-buzzing physical
reaction he got from the feel of her against him.
Wishful was a small mountain town. TJ knew every person in
it fairly well, and Harley was no exception. He knew her layered
blond hair, silky and straight and not quite touching her shoulders,
even as a strand of it caught on the stubble of his jaw. He
knew her face, always soft and pretty, though tonight it held
more than a hint of fatigue and anxiety as well.
And just like that the sexual punch faded, replaced by concern.
“Harley? You okay?”
Twisting free, she turned from him so quickly he was barely
able to catch her hand. “Hey. Hey,” he murmured when she
fought him pulling her back into him. His hands were on her
arms as he bent to look into her face, which did him little good.
Her eyes were covered by reflective sunglasses.
He pulled them off, exposing her warm chocolate eyes, but
whatever expression he’d caught a quick flash of was gone, carefully
and purposely gone.
“Did I hurt you?” she asked, staring at his throat, always so
tough on the outside, yet so soft on the inside.
“No, I’m fine. You?”
She wasn’t. He could feel the tension of her body against his,
in the quick quiver of her limbs, though that might just have
been the same unwelcome erotic awareness he’d felt.
With Harley, he’d always felt it, though he’d gotten good at
ignoring it since they subscribed to two very different philosophies
in life. His being to live as uncomplicated as possible, including
romantic entanglements. Hers being the opposite. She
was complicated as hell, and she played for keeps.
“I’m fine, too,” she murmured, flexing her shoulders beneath
his hands. “Really.”
He wasn’t surprised at her statement. She was proud and she
didn’t need anyone. Just ask her. But he took a second, longer
look at her, saw the exhaustion in the paleness of her skin, and
the worry in the tight lines of her mouth. God, he loved her
mouth. She wore gloss on a pair of lips that had given him more
than a few dirty fantasies over the years. Then there was the milk
chocolate depth of her gaze, which could warm anyone else’s
soul but sliced right through his. She wore faded, snug Levi’s low
on her hips and a pretty stretchy knit top that hugged the curves
she was so often forced to hide beneath her mechanic overalls
when she was working. “Harley, what’s wrong?”
A bullshit answer and they both knew it. Once upon a time,
they’d been close enough that he could have called her on it. She
was still close with his brothers, but TJ had never been able to put his finger on exactly when things had changed between them.
“Sorry about the collision,” she said.
Wow. Four whole words, willingly given. “No problem. Watch
out.” He pulled her back up against him to let a customer move
through the door, and for the second time in as many minutes he
felt an undeniable . . . zing. And for the first time, he saw the mirror
of it in Harley’s gaze before she could mask it.
For a deliciously long beat she stayed plastered up against
him, and he began to think she was enjoying the connection, but
proving the ridiculousness of that, she snatched her glasses from
him and turned to walk away.
“You telling me you didn’t feel that?” he asked her back, having
no idea why he pushed, or why he cared. Since when did he
push for anything, especially something as nameless and intangible
as what he might want from Harley Stephens?
“The thing that happens when we get too close.”
She froze, then slowly turned to face him. “It’s Indian summer,
TJ. We’re all a little overheated. It’s natural.”
“Is that right?”
“Yes.” She broke eye contact, her gaze skittering away. “It’s
Wishful, you know. High altitude. And it’s hot, it’s really, really
hot. It’s normal to feel so . . .”
She bit her lower lip. “Yes.”
“So is that what happens when we get too close then, Harley?
You get really, really hot?”
Her eyes jerked to his, clearly realizing she’d just given away
far more than she’d meant to. “What are you even doing here
anyway?” she asked. “You’re usually in Alaska, or Wyoming, or
anywhere other than here.”
True. He took all the long treks for Wilder Adventures, which
usually had him gone for weeks, even months at a time. He liked it
that way. Always had. “I’m in between trips. So do you get really,
really hot with Nolan, too?”
Nolan being Nolan Lightner, the owner of the car and truck
garage where Harley wrenched part-time. And Wishful, being
Mayberry-With-Attitude, loved its gossip mill, which meant that
everyone knew she’d gone out with Nolan twice.
Not that TJ was counting.
“Yes,” she said firmly even as a blush bloomed on her cheeks.
“Nolan and I get . . . hot.” She crossed her arms, as always, ready
and willing to do battle when backed against a wall. “Is that
what you wanted to hear?”
Hell, no. But TJ watched her fidget, and suddenly he felt a
whole hell of a lot better.
Because she was lying.
“In fact, if you must know . . .” She stabbed a finger into his
pec for emphasis, “there are so many sparks between me and
Nolan that our clothes catch fire every time we’re near each other.”
He registered the abrupt change in the pitch of her voice and
her overly defensive stance and grinned. Yeah, he was feeling much
better, and leaned in close enough to whisper in her ear. “Liar.”
A low growl of temper escaped her and once again she pushed
clear of him, heading toward the pickup counter, bad attitude
spilling from her with every swing of her sweet hips and sweeter
Feeling a mixture of amusement, at himself, at her, he let her go.
Stone came up behind him. “You’re supposed to ask them
out, not scare them off.”
TJ turned to his brother, standing tall and lean and tanned
from long days on the mountain, his stark green eyes flat-out
grinning, looking like what TJ knew was his own mirror image.
“You think I scared her?”
“No, I think you do something else to her entirely.” Stone
shook his head. “Though I have no idea what she sees in you,
man. You’re ugly as sin.”
Ignoring that, TJ twisted to look at Harley again.
“You going to run off on yet another long trip to get away
from her again?” Stone asked. “’Cause that’s only a temporary
fix and we all know it.”
Stone clapped a hand to TJ’s shoulder and didn’t shut up.
“Face it, man. You’re as drawn to that woman as you’re drawn
to the mountains. One guess as to which is more lethal.”