The Cowgirl Ropes a Billionaire (Page 20)

The Cowgirl Ropes a Billionaire(20)
Author: Cora Seton

“There’s no rule says you have to.”

He was right. Except for the point where she was competing to win the money she needed to keep her business afloat, she was essentially on vacation. There was nothing more she could accomplish tonight. She leaned back and gazed upon the valley spread beneath them, with its flashing silver band of water traversing through it. Up here, it was hard to focus on her problems back in Montana. Hannah and the volunteers would have all the animals fed, exercised, and back in their pens for the night. She hoped no emergencies had cropped up, or if they had that her brother had been able to handle them.

She missed the animals—their noses butting against her hands as she wandered among them, the way they were always happy to see her, no matter what. Their native optimism.

She could use some of that. Evan was proving to be a true competitor, and if she was going to win she needed to focus all her attention on her goal.

Which meant a good night’s sleep.

“I can’t keep my eyes open anymore,” she said.

“I’ll take care of the fire and be in soon. Don’t hog all the covers.”

She repressed the anxious feeling that tightened her gut at his words. “I’ll leave a corner for you.”

She visited the bushes some yards from off the path and awkwardly washed her face and brushed her teeth with some of her drinking water. Soon she was in the still-warm tent with the sleeping bag unzipped and spread lightly over her. Despite the hardness of the ground and the earliness of the hour, her eyelids were drooping closed when Evan unzipped the tent flap and stepped inside.

Instantly, she was wide-awake again.

The tent was so small he had to crawl on his hands and knees to get inside of it. She heard him rustling around before she felt the sleeping bag lift and the warm bulk of a man slip in beside her. Every nerve ending she possessed went on high alert as he wriggled closer and spread the sleeping bag back over the two of them.

“You good?” he asked.

“Uh…yeah,” she said.

“We’re set,” he called out and she frowned when she remembered that the remaining cameraman was supposed to install a small, remote camera inside the tent. She stifled a curse as the tent flap unzipped again and a man’s hand reached in and hooked something to a fabric loop in the ceiling. That must be the camera. She glared at it for a moment before pulling the sleeping bag high around her shoulders despite the heat.

The heat that was increasing moment by moment with Evan’s bulk pressed against her.

“Do you have to be so close to me?” she snapped when she couldn’t stand it anymore.

“Where am I supposed to go?” he asked, a hint of humor—strained humor—in his voice.

“Just—don’t touch me.”

He laughed and moved half an inch away from her. “How’s that?”

“Not good enough.” She moved this time, and almost immediately came up against the fabric of the side of the tent. She wriggled back and encountered Evan again. “For God’s sake, isn’t there more room on your side?”

“Not really.” This time he sounded chagrined. “Guess we’ll just have to deal with close quarters.”

She sighed heavily but lay still and closed her eyes again. It didn’t help that the sun was barely down. Evan turned, which pressed him even closer to her. She was aware of every single place their bodies touched, even if they were modestly dressed, as Jake put it. Evan was muscle all over. For a billionaire, he was actually pretty hot. She wondered if women threw themselves at him all the time and nodded to herself; of course they did. Handsome and filthy rich? What a combination.

Did he ever wonder about people’s motives? How did he protect himself from everyone who wanted to use him for their own gain? He came across as very self-contained, and she wondered if that was merely a defense mechanism he had to use to survive.

Had he always been a billionaire? Yes—Hannah showed her an article about him that said Mortimer Innovations had been in his family for generations now, so he must have grown up knowing that he could always have exactly what he wanted.

What did he want?

The question brought a rush of heat to her body that she tried unsuccessfully to squash. More than once today she’d been convinced that he wanted her. Ridiculous. He must be surrounded by beautiful women all the time. She wasn’t anything special. Cute. That’s the word people used to sum her up.

She’d always been cute, from when she was a child trying to keep up with her older brother to when she’d spent her high school years competing with girls like Lacey Taylor, who wrapped all the cowboys from the nearby ranches around her little finger.

Cute and broke.

The thought depressed her and she turned to her back. Now her shoulder was pressed against Evan’s.

“I thought you’d be asleep by now,” he said, his deep voice rumbling through her and setting her senses alight.

“I thought you’d be asleep. What’s keeping you up?”

There was a long pause and just when she thought he wasn’t going to answer at all, she felt his arm move and his fingers touched hers, under the covers. They slid between her own and he squeezed her hand.

Her breath caught in her throat and she didn’t move. His thumb traced across her palm softly once, twice—a caress so small, yet so intimate it made her tingle all over. He squeezed her hand again, then let go, and she felt the loss. His admission—for that’s what it had to be—unnerved her and set her on fire all at the same time.

She fought the urge to roll over and press herself against him, all too aware of the video camera rolling just a few feet above their bodies. Besides, he was her enemy—her opponent. His goal was to force her to marry him and to tie up her time for a whole year, while she lost everything that really mattered to her.

Still, his nearness was a powerful aphrodisiac, especially to a woman who hadn’t seen any action since…well, since the last president was in office.

Close your eyes and go to sleep. Don’t even think about him, she told herself. Easy to say. Harder to do when Evan announced his presence with every breath he took. He was obviously still awake, too. Was he thinking about her?

Desperate to squelch her rising libido, she pictured Misty, a small, wiry dog who’d been dumped at the clinic recently, half-starving, with the worst case of mange she’d ever seen. The poor dog stunk when she’d first handled her, and shrank away from Bella as if embarrassed about her appearance. Who would look after pets like Misty if she lost? She couldn’t let Evan distract her. Turning her back on him, she closed her eyes tightly and began to count sheep.