The Cowgirl Ropes a Billionaire (Page 25)

The Cowgirl Ropes a Billionaire(25)
Author: Cora Seton

Biting back a smile, Bella waited for Madelyn’s response.

“Are you forfeiting the game? Ellis—get Legal on the line!” she called, and leaned in toward Evan with an icy look. “You have ten seconds to decide, Mr. Mortimer. Contestants must participate in every contest or they forfeit and lose the game. Five…four…three…two…”

Bella held her breath. Was this it? Was she about to win five million dollars, all because Evan wouldn’t—or couldn’t—get on a tram? She glanced over the small metal contraption again. Small. Was Evan claustrophobic?

Of course he was—he couldn’t stay in the tent with her, either.

She turned back to him just in time to see a muscle in his jaw ticking like crazy before he opened his mouth and said, “I’m not forfeiting. Fine, I’ll ride the tram.” He stalked off toward it and disappeared around the back end. A moment later Bella could make out his profile through one of the large windows.

He didn’t look happy.

A smile curved her lips. Time for her to make some headway—she wouldn’t let this opportunity slip through her fingers. Forgetting her own qualms, she decided to put his to very good use. Whatever the next challenge was, it obviously was going to take place on top this mountain. She needed to make sure he was thoroughly freaked out by the time they got off that tram.

* * * * *

Evan kept his fingers wrapped tightly around the railing as the tram filled with passengers. Bella squeezed in beside him and various crew members took up the rest of the space with their bodies and equipment. He could feel them using up all the oxygen. Already the metal walls pressed back upon him and they hadn’t even left the ground. The only thing he had going for him was the knowledge that the ride was only seven minutes long. He could stand anything for seven minutes.

Bella pressed up against him, as if the crush of bodies gave her no other choice. She leaned into him heavily and although normally he’d relish the feeling of her soft breasts pressed against his arm, right this moment it felt like someone had tossed a woolen blanket over his head and was about to smother him. The image of his mother flashed into his mind, rushing to pull him into her arms just when he’d been about to escape outside to play with his friends. “No, Evan, stay with me. Mommy needs you.”

He brushed the memory aside and stared out the window as the tram lurched forward.

Breathe. Just breathe. In. Out. Empty your mind.

Bella slipped an arm around his waist and pressed closer. “You know sometimes they overload these little cars,” she said conversationally. “They don’t mean to, but they have to make as much money as possible, so they make sure to get as many people on as they can. Sometimes they only count the number of people—not their weight. North Americans are getting heavier all the time, so even though 10 people might have fit just fine in here a century ago, they don’t really fit now, do they?” She crowded him against the wall.

Evan wanted to push back. In fact, he wanted to shove Bella as hard as he could against the other riders. A sheen of sweat coated his hands and the back of his neck and he was beginning to find it hard to breathe. “Back up a little, would you?” he managed to ask instead.

“What?” She crowded even closer. “This is just like riding in a really crowded elevator, isn’t it? Do you ever worry about elevators stopping in between floors and you’d get stuck and you’d have to wait for hours and hours until someone came along and rescued you?”

Hell, getting stuck in an elevator was his worst fear. He never took elevators if he could help it. He passed off his obsession with taking the stairs as part of his dedication to staying fit. “Good practice for climbing mountains,” he always said just before he disappeared into the stairwell of a high rise. Luckily he was too rich for people to question him too closely.

“Imagine if the tram stopped. It could be days before we were rescued. We’d have to take turns lying down to sleep while the others stood up.”

Days? He dragged his gaze away from the spectacular mountain scenery outside the window and looked down at her, finally catching her evil grin. “It isn’t working,” he ground out.

“What isn’t working?” she asked innocently, pushing him farther into the wall.

“You’re not scaring me.”

“I think I am,” she laughed. “You’re really sweating.”

Damn it, she was right—he was practically dripping. “So I don’t like small spaces, so what?”

“So, it’s kind of pathetic, Moneybuns. This is just a tourist attraction.” She draped herself over him. “A really, really small and confined tourist attraction.”

This time he did push her away, firmly but not too roughly. No need to make a spectacle of himself while the cameras were rolling. “Enough. I know I’m impossible to resist, but you’re going to have to control yourself until you get to the top. Once we’re there, I’ll be happy to indulge your every fantasy.” Out of the corner of his eye he saw the upper station come into view and breathed a sigh of relief. A couple more moments and he’d be done with this ride from hell.

With any luck they’d hike down.

* * * * *

Even scared to death, Evan was hot. Once he succumbed to his claustrophobia he stopped complaining about the hordes of money-hungry women who threw themselves at him on a daily basis, and she was able to remember why she’d found him so attractive. The fact that billionaire Evan Mortimer had an Achilles heel made him all that much more interesting. What had happened to make him so antsy in small spaces?

Bella filed out of the tram onto the top of Whistler’s Mountain, no relation to the famous ski resort far to the southwest, as Madelyn pointed out. The air was noticeably cooler up here, even in the broad sunshine, and the view took her breath away. She only glanced at the upper station, which looked to contain a restaurant as well as a gift shop, before she turned to face the valley spread out below them and the jagged mountains that marched in every direction off into the distance.

Canada had so far exceeded her expectations, she had to admit. She’d heard about Banff and Jasper from many of her friends and family members—since Montana bordered Canada, the park was a popular vacation destination for Chance Creek’s citizens—but their descriptions and even their photographs didn’t do it justice. For one minute all her worries about the show, Evan, her animals and business slid away and she let the light breeze and thin air refresh her. She wished she always had this view in front of her to remind her of the infinite wonder of the world she inhabited. Somehow, in the day to day of life and work, it was all too easy to forget.