He was sleeping in the desert under a bear skin rug.
Evan stretched and immediately came in contact with something solid, warm, and damp. Something…human. He was far too warm, himself. His head ached and while he wanted to open his eyes, he knew the sun would burn him blind the minute he did. Still, after another moment wondering where the hell he was, he cracked one eye, then the other.
He was in a tent.
The orange nylon fabric stretched above him, broken only by the camera dangling from a strap sewn to the ceiling. The sun blazed outside, warming the tent’s interior like a greenhouse, the heat compounded by the sleeping bag and heaps of clothing still piled on top of him.
At least he was naked beneath the covers, otherwise he’d be worse off than he was now. Where were his boxers? He turned to look at the person still sleeping beside him, got one glance of Bella’s blond hair spilling over the covers and remembered everything.
Wow, he thought, falling back against the pillow. What a night. Not only had they made love within inches of the rolling camera—a feat hotter than any other sexual experience he could remember—but he’d managed to sleep all night in the tiny, claustrophobic cocoon Madelyn deemed a tent.
He waited for the feeling of panic to envelop him, but it never came. He ran a hand over his stubbled jaw and bit back the smile threatening to spread over his face. Headache be damned, he felt good. He felt really good.
He could get used to waking up next to the fiery, stubborn, lovely woman sleeping beside him, and if he played his cards right these next two days he’d get at least a year to convince her to make it a full time gig. Maybe it was insane to think he’d found the woman for him after only three days, but he felt sure about this in a way he hadn’t felt sure about anything that had to do with a woman before. He felt around with his toes, found his boxers wadded up near the base of their bedding and tried to surreptitiously pull them on. Crawling out from under his covers, he pulled on a pair of sweats, stuck the evidence of last night’s shenanigans in his pocket and headed out of the tent to the bushes where he hoped to dispose of it.
Aware he desperately needed a shower, he disappeared into the forest, doing his best to clean himself thoroughly once he was away from prying eyes. He was still damp when he returned to the campsite, but felt a good deal more presentable.
Soon Bella pushed her way out of the tent and headed for the woods, as well, carrying a small bag of toiletries with her. When she returned, he caught her gaze and winked. She flushed, but said nothing, making her way to the logs around the dead campfire to await breakfast. He wished they were alone, and he could show her just how alive he felt this morning, and just how anxious he was to pick up where they’d left off. They’d made love not once, but twice, Bella surprising him with her desire for a second round.
Heck, he’d better stop thinking about it, or the whole world would figure out where his mind was at. These sweatpants weren’t going to hide anything.
He turned away and thought about his last business lunch with a particularly boring member of the Board of Directors of Mortimer Innovations until his ardor cooled and the evidence of it disappeared. He turned back just in time to see the influx of SUVs that heralded another exciting day of Can You Beat a Billionaire.
“Let’s get cracking!” Madelyn called. As Evan and Bella slowly approached, she tapped her foot. “And let’s get one thing clear today. We’re not having a repeat of yesterday’s yawn-fest. I want some action. I want competition. I want something my viewers have never seen before!”
Evan tried not to look at Bella. Failed.
Her cheeks flushed pink.
“Today we have two challenges that pit you in direct competition. Maybe that will get your competitive juices flowing. And since the two of you have become such good friends,” she emphasized the last word with a smarmy inflection that made Evan stiffen—had they betrayed themselves in the tent last night? “Let me remind you of a few things.” She glared at Evan. “You won’t get the wife you need if you don’t get yourself together. And Bella,” she pointed to her, “kittens.”
“Fluffy, sweet, helpless, dead kittens.”
Bella jerked and a glance told him Madelyn’s words had hit their mark, undoing all the goodwill between them since their interlude under the covers.
“Eat your breakfast, grab your gear, and we’ll take you to the start of this day’s hike. Get going and give us some good television,” Madelyn said.
* * * * *
Today she’d take the lead, Bella told herself as she munched a carrot muffin and tried not to watch Evan doing warm up lunges to get ready for the day’s hike. Every time he moved, though, his sweatpants moved with him, molding themselves to his muscular thighs and incredible ass.
Last night was incredible, she had to admit. Truly incredible. Although in the light of day she couldn’t believe she’d basically consented to having sex on national television. Twice. Had the camera been able to make any of it out? So far no one had said anything, or acted weird around them, except Madelyn’s one remark about them being such good friends.
She hoped like crazy there was nothing to see on those recordings.
Would they do it again tonight?
Biting into her carrot muffin, she struggled to concentrate on the events of the day ahead. More hiking first, obviously, followed by head-to-head challenges.
When it was time to set out down the path, Bella realized she felt terrific. After their shenanigans the previous night, she’d slept soundly, and her feet and muscles weren’t as sore today as they had been yesterday. She felt stronger than when she’d started the show, and she kept finding herself humming as she walked along.
Evan walked behind her, and she could swear she heard a snatch of melody from him now and then, as well. As the morning went on she stopped worrying about what the future would bring and decided just to enjoy the day.
And she did enjoy it, up until the point she rounded a bend in the trail and came upon their first challenge.
“Oh, my God.”
A pond lay ahead of her, but that wasn’t the problem. Stretched over it like twin suspension bridges were two thin strips of a metallic material about ten feet apart. They couldn’t be bridges, though. They were too narrow, for one thing, and they lacked any railings at all.
At intervals alongside each of them were five posts that reached high above the bridges. Dangling from them were more of the stuffed animals that seemed to be this show’s trademark.