The Cowgirl Ropes a Billionaire (Page 24)

The Cowgirl Ropes a Billionaire(24)
Author: Cora Seton

“All right, sleepy time is over,” she said, ducking her head in through the open door of the SUV. “Chop-chop, let’s go.”

“Where are we?” She climbed out of the vehicle as Madelyn pulled back. “Oh,” she added as she spotted the small boxy green metal cars attached to cables going up the side of the mountain in front of them.

“The Jasper Tramway,” Madelyn said. “A seven minute ride to 7700 feet.” She smirked as Bella’s face fell. “Don’t worry—it’s perfectly safe.” Her tone said it wasn’t anything of the kind, but Bella squashed the panic rising in her gut. A tram was far safer than a zip line and she’d done just fine with that yesterday.

“What’s the challenge?”

“You’ll find out when we get to the top.”

“When’s lunch?” Evan materialized by her side and as usual, Bella felt the stirrings of desire. Good to know a dousing in cold water hadn’t put out that flame. If anything it had sharpened it.

“Soon,” was all Madelyn said before stalking off and shouting to a cameraman.

“How are you doing?” Evan asked her. Glancing up, she noticed several cameras trained on her and stifled a sigh.

“Fine. Tired.” Shoot, she wasn’t supposed to admit that to him.

“I’ll bet. It really scared me, seeing you go under like that. It’s a good thing they had extra personnel out on the river with you.” He touched her arm gently. “You know, I want to win this thing, but if you die in the process it kind of spoils things for me.”

She looked up sharply, caught his grin and melted a little inside. “I guess so.” Usually his closeness unnerved her, but this time she felt herself draw strength from his presence. He was so calm and sane in the midst of the craziness of the film shoot, and in a way he was her ally—the only other person around who wasn’t part of the crew. “What’s up with that marriage thing anyway? Why not marry someone you love?”

He shrugged and looked away. “I don’t love anyone enough for that.”

“Really? No steady girlfriend?”

“Hell, no.” He laughed and glanced at her sheepishly. “That kind of came out wrong. I’m not the settling-down type of guy, but in order to maintain control of Mortimer Innovations, I have to be married by the end of the month, and I have to stay married for a year.”

“You couldn’t spend a little of your billions and just buy a fake wife?”

“Nah, I’m too cheap for that. If I win this thing I get you for free,” he said, laughter glinting in his dark eyes.

“Wouldn’t it be simpler not to spend five days gallivanting around Jasper?”

“I suppose, but it would be less fun. I guess if I lose, that’s what I’ll do.”

“Why not just do it to begin with?” she pressed.

He glanced away from her, then back. “This is going to sound bad no matter how I phrase it, but it’s the truth. I’ve always known women aren’t dating me—they’re dating my money. They’re dating the possibility of becoming Mrs. Billionaire. I learned very early on that women are experts at pretending to love you when you have something they want. I also learned that they’re experts at sinking their claws into you and not letting go, even when you want them to. My competition would have a field day if I bought a wife and I doubt I’d be able to shake the woman when the year was up. She’d claim she was truly in love when we married, and say that I’d duped her about my intentions, and the courts might take her side. After all, I’m just a nasty billionaire.”

“Wow,” Bella said. Poor little rich guy, indeed. The desire she’d felt a moment ago melted away under the cynicism of his words.

“I told you it would sound bad.”

“I don’t want to meet the women you hang out with.” She took a step back from him.

“No, you don’t.” He watched Madelyn usher a herd of crew members into a tram and send them up the mountain. The director scanned the area and headed their way. Evan frowned. “Look—I know there are good women out there, but I’m so messed up at this point I won’t make a good husband no matter who I’m with. So I’m doing it this way. If you lose, you’ve already agreed to sign an airtight prenuptial agreement. You’ll get an all-expenses-paid yearlong vacation among the high rollers of the business world, with accommodations in the best hotels and homes on the West Coast. We’ll throw in some travel to exotic locals, and I promise I’ll always be a gentleman. It’ll be great, I swear.”

It’ll be great? Was he for real? Bella laughed derisively. “You are unbelievable. You think you can tell me that sad little story and I’ll just stop competing and join you in false matrimony? Hello—I’m here to win five million dollars because I’m about to go broke and lose my business. There are animals depending on me—real, live creatures who have no one else to turn to, and who are going to die if I don’t win. I’m not rolling over and playing wifey, Moneybuns. I’m going to win this thing!”

“Did you get that?” Madelyn snapped at Paul the cameraman as she strode up to them.

“Sure did.” Paul scratched his stomach.

“Excellent. Great television. Bella, Evan, come on—your turn in the tram.”

Bella’s rising anger at Evan’s insensitivity drained away as she trailed after Madelyn to the small, green metal car. Engrossed in evaluating how she really felt about riding in one of these things, she felt rather than saw Evan fall back. Madelyn noticed, too.

“Keep up. What’s the matter with you?” she snapped at him.

“I’d prefer to hike up,” he said. Bella thought he looked a little pale. Had her words hurt him that much? She doubted it. Something else must be bugging him.

“You’d prefer to hike up?” Madelyn put her hands on her hips. “Well, I’d prefer to get this television show filmed sometime in the next century. Get in the tram!”

“No.”

Bella raised an eyebrow. Evan didn’t like the tram, either? Was he afraid of heights? That made no sense; he’d been fine on the zip line the previous day, and didn’t he say he liked rock climbing?

“What do you mean, no? I said get in the tram and I mean it, mister—we have a schedule to keep.” Madelyn stepped forward menacingly.

“No.”