Bella stood up with a groan and handed the remains of her dinner to Ellis, who came to escort her to her position. She was sore and stiff after her day bushwhacking through the wilds of Jasper. She’d never felt so defeated.
“It’s been another exciting day on Can You Beat a Billionaire,” Jake said jovially, but she had the feeling he was stretching for his enthusiasm today. It hadn’t been very exciting at all—at least except for the steamy kiss she’d shared with her sworn adversary, and the camera crew hadn’t gotten that on film. The show made from today’s footage would feature lots of shots of her stumbling around lost in the woods. By the time Paul yanked her GPS away and showed her exactly where to go she’d lost all desire to fight him.
“Evan, you’ve obviously used a GPS before,” Jake said in his oily way.
“Yes, I do quite a bit of hiking and rock climbing, so I rely on GPS units often,” Evan said.
What a self-satisfied prick.
“Bella, I take it you’re not as familiar with GPS units?” Jake turned his thousand watt smile on her, and she fought to keep the greasy, cold food she’d just consumed from coming back up.
“No,” she said tightly. “I’ve never used one before.”
“Tough break.” Jake nodded sagely. “Evan, you found all ten geocaches handily, completing the course with plenty of daylight to spare. Bella, you had more difficulty. What happened after you found the fourth cache?”
“I got lost,” she ground out. Seriously, did he have to rub it in? It wasn’t like the audience wouldn’t just have watched an hour of footage of her scratching her head and walking in circles. She was tired. She was wet. She wanted nothing more than to crawl into her sleeping bag and forget this whole day.
Except that kiss.
“You got lost,” Jake repeated. “What a shame. Well, you did eventually manage to find six geocaches, and you did—eventually—make it back to camp. I’ll leave you two to get some shut-eye in a minute, but first let’s look at our totals. Evan, you currently have 21 points. Bella,” he drew the moment out and she was sure all the cameras were focused in tightly on her face, “you have 19.”
She blinked. Nineteen? And Evan only had 21? They were only two points apart!
“You are only two points behind Evan,” Jake said, as if he’d read her mind. “And you still have two days in which to take the lead. Four more contests.” He leaned forward, his face a mask of seriousness. “Four more chances to find out—Can You Beat a Billionaire!”
“Cut!” Madelyn called. “Okay, people, pack it up. Let’s go get some rest. We’ve got a fun day planned for the two of you tomorrow.” She smiled her vicious smile and Bella fought the urge to lash out at her. Obviously, that wouldn’t do any good.
Soon she and Evan were left alone with their usual skeleton crew of cameramen, and she was instantly all too aware of Evan standing only a few feet away.
“Ready to hit the hay?” he asked.
No—she thought with a shiver of anticipation. After that toe-curling kiss this afternoon she wasn’t sure what he’d try next. On the other hand, it wasn’t like he’d stay in the tent with her anyway—he never did. “Sure,” she said aloud. Still, as she made her way into the bush to brush her teeth and heed a call of nature before she slipped into the tent to change, excitement twirled her innards into knots.
Would he kiss her again?
She hoped so. No—she hoped not! Especially not with the stupid camera hanging down from the ceiling. Was there any way to cover the damn thing? The night time cameraman watched their every move on his monitors, probably hoping desperately for some action. It must be boring as anything watching two people sleep night after night.
Rather, one person sleep and the other make a break for the open air.
She snuggled down under the single sleeping bag, exhaustion aching in her limbs. Surely she’d clocked enough miles today to warrant a good night’s rest. Even as the thought crossed her mind, however, the tent shivered and Evan poked his head through the flap, shouldered his way inside and immediately swallowing up every speck of extra space. He crawled to the mat and got under the covers as well, but instead of lying down, he turned on his side, opened his overnight bag and pulled out shirts, jackets and even the rain slicker the show had provided each of them in case of inclement weather.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
He spread the clothes in layers over the top of them. “It’s cold tonight, what with all the rain today. I thought we could use some extra warmth. What’ve you got?”
Under cover of the sleeping bag he squeezed her hand. She didn’t exactly understand what he was trying to convey to her, but she slowly sat up and dug in her own pack. Together, they spread the remainder of the items, until they were covered in a mound of clothes. Evan was right—it was a little cold tonight, but it wasn’t that cold. They would be roasting under all these layers soon.
Evan lay down, and Bella followed suit. He nudged her, giving her a little push, and she went with it, turning to her side, her senses on high alert for what might happen next. Now she was staring at the wall of the tent, Evan’s bulk behind her. He turned, too, in the same direction, and she felt his breath stir the hair at the back of her neck.
For a few minutes, all she could hear was his steady breathing. He was so close to her, she could feel the rise and fall of his chest as well. He snuggled in, shrugging the covers higher up over their shoulders, then their faces, until she was afraid he planned to smother her. She was warm, all right. In fact, she was beginning to sweat.
Then he touched her.
He settled one hand on her hip and a blaze of heat suffused her, concentrated in the area between her legs. Her breathing hitched as he traced a path up toward her waist and down again. Even though a pair of yoga pants and a t-shirt still separated their skin, she bit her lip at the sudden need his light caress stirred within her.
She leaned back, ready to turn toward him, but his hand stilled on her hip and he whispered, so quietly she barely heard him, “Don’t move. Let me do it.”
She stiffened. Let me do it. Like she would let him boss her around. But before she could push him away, he whispered, “You’ll get your turn. Can’t wait.”
He couldn’t wait? She released a shaky breath and her tension slid away at the thought of touching him wherever she wanted, knowing he was powerless to stop her—that he relished everything she did, but that she was in control.