The pony express station they own in the wilds of the Nevada Territory means everything to Helena Gray. That's why she trudges up a lonely mountain to ask the town hermit to marry her. Carrigan, a surly loner who rarely comes down off his mountain is the last man around to be considered marriage material, but Helena needs his reputation to keep her station open after her father's brutal murder. While the merchants in town won't give her the time of day, Helena knows no one would dare cross Carrigan. No one knows what he'd do if they got him mad enough. Carrigan turns Helena down flat. He chooses to stay in the high mountains above town because he wants nothing to do with people. But Helena makes him an irresistible offer. If he'll live in her house, and use his reputation to rebuild her business, she'll deed over a tract of land way outside of town to him. Six months. Carrigan reckons he can stand civilization for six months in exchange for the kind of freedom he's always wanted. Once in town, Carrigan finds it hard to maintain his distance from Helena. He's been away from a woman for so many years, he's forgotten how soft, how utterly irresistible they could be. But he has to resist. He told himself years ago that he'd never get close to anyone, so he'd never have to go through that wrenching loss ever again. For her part, Helena's stunned to find herself wishing she were in a real marriage instead of this sham. Spending time around Carrigan makes her yearn to feel his embrace, his kisses. Even if he leaves in six months, she tells herself, it would be worth it to know what it would feel like to make love to him. She could at least pretend she had a real marriage, something she knows she'll never have in her life anyway.