The Cowgirl Ropes a Billionaire (Page 11)

The Cowgirl Ropes a Billionaire(11)
Author: Cora Seton

Jake composed himself back into his high-eyebrowed pose. “And if you lose? What will it be like to be Evan Mortimer’s wife—the wife of a billionaire?” he repeated.

“Ummm….boring, I guess.” Bella shrugged. “I wouldn’t have anything to do.”

Boring? Evan felt like he’d been slapped. Being his wife would be boring? He was a billionaire, for crying out loud. Women would kill to marry him!

“Cut! Boring? Are you kidding me?” Madelyn stalked over to Bella. “This is television. Play to the audience. You can’t say boring. The audience doesn’t want to be bored. Never, ever say boring. Roll cameras!”

Jake leaned forward a third time as Evan tried to force a smile back to his own lips. Wouldn’t do to look like she’d surprised him. He planned to remain calm, unfluttered and completely in control at all times.

“And if you lose?” Jake boomed again. “What will it be like to be Evan Mortimer’s wife—the wife of a billionaire?”

Bella blew out a breath and looked straight at Evan.

“It’ll suck.”

* * * * *

Bella nearly laughed out loud at the look on Evan’s face. The hotshot must think every woman in the world was standing in line to marry him. What a pretentious, egotistical snob. Madelyn was bad enough for insinuating she’d blow her chance at five million dollars for the privilege of bedding down with Mr. Money for a year. Fat chance of that. If Fate truly hated her guts and she lost, she’d make the lawyers write it right into his precious pre-nuptial: No sex.

Evan was staring at her again, his dark eyes cold and hard. Oh, she’d ticked him off good, hadn’t she? Poor little rich boy was used to getting anything and everything he wanted at the snap of his fingers. Well, count her out of that game.

After a couple of chirpy comments about her answer, Jake launched into a description of their first day of competition.

“We will meet at the starting point tomorrow morning at eight. Good luck to both of you, get a good night’s sleep…and enjoy your final supper!”

On cue, two perky waitresses began to set platters heaped with delicious food upon the table, until the space between them was full of dishes, each one more appetizing than the last. Unfortunately, her appetite was gone, so while she scooped some salmon, new potatoes and salad onto her plate, she only picked at it. The cameras still rolled, which made her ultra-self-conscious about chewing, and she kept dabbing at her face with her cloth napkin for fear of drips.

“What made you become a veterinarian?” Evan asked, startling her so that she dropped her fork to her plate with a clatter.

“What do you mean?” she said, picking it up again. She didn’t feel like rehashing this question.

“Was there a particular incident with a pet that made you choose your line of work? A cat who met a bad end?”

“A dog, actually,” she forced herself to say, the muscles of her face tightening. “Caramel. A family pet.”

“What happened to her?”

“She was struck by a car.”

“So you decided to save all the other dogs.”

She glanced up to see if he was making fun of her, but his voice had softened, and genuine sympathy shone in his eyes. Locked with Evan’s intelligent, questioning gaze, she sensed he was someone she could open up to.

Oh, hell no.

“I decided to do my best,” she said, hoping her clipped tone would signal an end to that line of questioning.

Evan studied her intently but changed tactics. “Have you done a lot of camping?”

Camping? “I was a girl scout for years,” she said cautiously.

“So…not for the last decade?” He helped himself to a steak.

Bella thought back. The last time she spent a night in a tent she’d been ten years old. “Something like that.”

“The gear has changed a lot.”

“Really?” She pretended to be bored—screw Madelyn—but secretly began to worry. What if she couldn’t pitch her tent at night? And what would it be like sleeping alone in a tent in this…wilderness? She didn’t scare easily, but this was bear country and as much as she hated horses…she hated bears more. She slid a glance at Madelyn who conversed in whispers with Ellis in the corner of the room. What would the director do if she found out about her fears?

Exploit them to the fullest, no doubt.

Her unease grew as she considered what she’d do if one of the challenges involved riding a horse. Could she get over her old fears and do it? Or would her campaign to win the show come to a screeching halt?

Would she lose and have to marry Evan?

“Yep. It’s no biggie for me, though,” Evan continued, oblivious to her rising panic. “I camp all the time. I like to rock climb, so I get out into the wilderness every chance I get.”

“You also brag every chance you get, don’t you?”

Damn, had she said that out loud? Her mother would send her to her room for days if she heard her speak like that to a dinner companion. If there was one thing Sylvie prized, it was good manners. Her family excelled at good manners.

Evan sat back. “At least I don’t blame my greed on helpless animals.”

This time she deliberately dropped her fork. “I beg your pardon?”

“If I don’t win, hundreds of animals will be slaughtered,” he mimicked in a high-pitch whine. “Please—spare me. You think anyone’s actually going to buy that sanctimonious act?”

“There’s nothing to buy. Everything I say is for real. Not like you—you probably hired someone to write you a script for the show. I’m not worried about what’s going to happen out there tomorrow, because I bet whenever you “go camping”—she finger-quoted the words—”you take along at least five other people to cook, clean, set out your clothes, put up your tent and carry you down the path to your destination. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m tired and frankly,” she turned toward the camera crew with a defiant look, “I’m bored. I’m going to bed.” As soon as she’d crossed the room and pushed through the door to the corridor, out of sight of the cameras, she raced down the hall to her own room.

Once inside, she rushed to the bathroom, locked the door, and began to scrape the makeup off of her face. Why had she let Hannah persuade her to go on this stupid show, anyhow? She hated Madelyn and Jake…and she despised Evan Mortimer.


Evan stood at a trailhead at eight the following morning dressed in khaki convertible hiking pants, boots, a black t-shirt and sun hat. He sipped the coffee Ellis handed him as soon as he got out of the SUV that conveyed him here from the lodge, and watched the crew scurry around to set up the morning’s first shot. Bella stood across the clearing clutching her own cup in two hands, as if she was trying to draw heat from it, although the fall morning was already getting unseasonably warm.