The Cowgirl Ropes a Billionaire (Page 17)

The Cowgirl Ropes a Billionaire(17)
Author: Cora Seton

His eyebrows shot up. “We don’t have to take turns, Betty. You can watch my ass anytime you like.”

He made a big show of keeping his posterior pointed her way through the entire process of connecting his harness to the zip lines. Jim handed him a beanbag. “Good luck, man.”

“Thanks.” Evan turned to Bella and winked. “I’ll be watching for you.”


He took off, zipping down the line and out of sight. A second later, they heard a slap of something hitting wood.

“I think he got a basket,” Jim said, obviously impressed. “Your turn.”

Her stomach writhed at the thought of leaving the platform and skimming through the trees with the ground so far below her. “I don’t think I can do this.”

“Sure you can. It’s easy.”

“No, really—I don’t think I can!”

Jim clipped the end of a tether to her harness and to the zip line, and helped secure a second connection. “See? You’re attached in two ways to the line; no way you’ll fall down, no matter what. Keep your left hand on the brake,” he showed her how, “and use your right hand to throw. Easy, peasy!” He put the beanbag into her right hand and pushed her to the edge of the platform. “Jump!”

“But I don’t…”

Jim shoved her, and she fell forward, jerking sharply when the connection between harness and line brought her up short. She dropped the beanbag immediately and clutched the brake with both hands, screaming so loudly she hurt her own ears. The forest zipped past her in a blur, so she closed her eyes. That was worse. She opened them again and fought to keep from throwing up with fear. Something caught her eye and she blinked, surprised by the incongruity of a florescent orange post in the middle of this pristine forest. It stuck straight up and culminated in what looked like an old-fashioned bushel basket.

The basket!

Bella let go of the brake with her right hand, threw, and realized she no longer held the beanbag. Damn—she’d lost another point, and Evan had scored this one—she’d heard the thunk. Well, now that she knew what she was shooting at, she wouldn’t miss next time.

By the time she saw the platform approaching in the distance, she had her emotions under control. As she approached, she reflexively drew up her knees and pressed the brake harder. This zip line business wasn’t that difficult after all; and not that scary once you got past jumping off the platform. The brake did put her speed under her control.

And the burn of competition helped a lot.

Having never considered herself all that competitive, the feeling surprised her, but it also gratified her. Somehow, the unquenchable desire to kick Evan’s ass made her feel powerful, and she hadn’t felt that way in a long time. She slowed to a stop and landed on the second platform. As she allowed another helper to unclip her from the first line and escort her around the tree to the second line, she was only dimly aware of the cameraman also landing and making his way around the tree. She gripped the beanbag tightly and positioned her left hand over the brake with confidence.

“Need a push?” the young man asked.

“Nope—I’ve got it.”

She pushed off and relished the feeling of freedom zipping down the line gave her. She kept her eyes peeled for the target and slowed down when she spotted it—there! Winding back for the throw, she remembered her years in little league. She could place a ball accurately.

Thunk. She hit the basket, but on the outside. Bella watched the beanbag fall to the ground in disbelief. Double-damn! Two points down.

The next target went better. She scored, and scored again on the fourth basket. When she arrived at the fifth platform, Evan was just taking off.

“Help me—hurry up,” she called and this time a young woman helped move her tether from line to line. Evan was already almost out of sight, but she yelled after him anyway. “Hey, Evan—your butt crack’s showing!”

He twisted and swore and the young woman helping her laughed out loud. “That’s the way to get him.”

Bella took her time getting ready for the next leg—her last chance for a point today. Taking a deep breath, she perched on the edge of the platform and gripped the beanbag. This was it—she had to score. She took off, keeping her speed well in line this time, and slowed down considerably when she spotted the basket. She aimed, held her arm steady, and threw as hard as she could.


She let go of the brake and allowed herself to pick up speed as she kicked her legs in a happy dance. Three points! Even if Evan got five she hadn’t fallen too far behind. The next challenge had to be better, right?


She would show him tomorrow—she would run his butt into the ground and find a way to get him off his game so she could…

“Bella—you’re going too fast!”

She opened her eyes, unaware she’d even closed them in her celebration, to see the platform hurtling toward her. Evan and a stranger—another zip line attendant—stared back at her in shock. She grabbed for the brake, missed it and grabbed again, but it was too late. Evan threw himself in the space on the platform between her and the tree trunk and she slammed into him at speed, knocking the wind from her lungs.

When she came to, she was tangled in a pile of arms and legs, the attendant yelling and swearing at both of them. Evan’s breath tickled her neck and she breathed in his smell, masculine and woodsy. She hadn’t been in such an intimate embrace in…well, years, frankly, and it stirred something within her that had been sleeping for a long time.

“Let me up,” she said shakily.

“What the hell were you thinking?” Evan said as he climbed awkwardly to his feet and dragged her up with him. “You could have been hurt. You could have killed yourself!”

“I would have stopped her,” the attendant said pettishly, and Evan turned his glare on him. The attendant slunk off to the other side of the platform. The cameraman landed, still filming.

Bella ignored him. “I’m fine. Thank you for saving me.” She meant it, but somehow the words came out sarcastically and Evan scowled.

“I did save you. They’d be hauling you off in an ambulance right now if I hadn’t been there.” Bella tried to shrug off his hands, but he gripped her harder. “Look at me.”

She did so reluctantly, but instead of anger she saw concern in his eyes.

“What do you care if I get hurt?” she demanded. “You’d win, right?”