Only with You (The Best Mistake #1) - Page 29

“See you at the end,” he hollered as he moved out of sight.

Snarling obscenities at him, she struggled to reach the lowest handle, wondering how children had managed this thing. Then again, kids were like monkeys. Twenty-eight-year-old women? Not so much.

Grateful that this particular part of the challenge was out of sight of spectators, she tried unsuccessfully to levy herself up to the next platform before she slid down again and again into the plastic balls.

She finally managed to get a decent grasp on two of the handles, and was debating where to make her next grab when she saw a hand extend in front of her face. Glancing up, she saw Gray’s laughing eyes stare down at her.

“Need some help?” he asked casually.

“No,” she said primly, conscious that her face was red and sweaty and that her arms were beginning to shake from the effort of supporting all of her weight.

“Come on, Soph,” he said, wiggling his fingers at her. “I won’t tell anyone.”

Sophie knew she had plenty of faults, but pride had never been one of them. When faced with the choice of dealing with a gloating man or languishing among plastic balls, she’d tolerate the testosterone overload. Grasping his arm, she allowed him to pull her up. When she lay gasping at the top of the platform, she paused a moment to catch her breath. “Do you think that’s that hard for everyone?” she asked him.

“No,” he said simply. “Guess you shoulda stretched your arms in addition to your quads, huh?”

She punched his shoulder. “You’re not supposed to help me, you know.”

“Yeah, well, it was either that or listen to you bitch in the office on Monday, so I was really doing the company a favor.”

“This is ridiculous,” she said as they began crawling on their hands and knees through a tunnel toward the next horrible challenge. Suddenly the roar of the crowd got louder and she realized that they were in the part of a tunnel that was visible to those watching. Fixing a smile on her face, she grinned and pretended to flex her muscles, while horribly self-conscious of how foolish she must look.

“Somebody get the tissues ready,” Gray called to his laughing employees. “Sophie’s going to need someone to comfort her when she loses!”

“Oh, so you’re making jokes now,” she muttered, as they cleared the tunnel and found themselves in a chamber surrounded by nets.

“I just wanted to give Jeff a man-to-man heads-up that he’ll have a chance to cheer you up when you emerge a sulky loser.”

“I’m not sulky. And I’m not going to lose. And why would Jeff care?”

“Oh, come on,” he said. “You’re going to tell me you two aren’t dating?”

“I don’t have to answer that,” she said stiffly. “But…no, I’m not dating Jeff.”

“Well, he’s interested,” Gray muttered as he began testing the nets for support.

Sophie had suspected as much herself, but wasn’t about to admit it to her boss. “I’m not so sure I like this chatty Gray. I think I liked you better in Vegas when you were all hostile. You weren’t so annoying.”

“I think you like me annoying,” he said with a wink before he began to climb up the side of the wall. “It ensures we have more in common.”

Rolling her eyes, Sophie followed him, finding this particular hurdle much easier than the previous. In fact, her lighter weight made it easier for her than it was for Gray, since there wasn’t as much pull on the net. Neither of them spoke as they concentrated on getting to the top.

“How long is this thing?” Gray muttered as he joined her at the top of the platform. “I thought it was like a minute-long adventure.”

“Are you kidding? It took the kids before us almost ten minutes, and they’re a hell of a lot more limber than we are.”

“Speak for yourself.”

“Oh, come on. You’re hardly Tarzan.”

“Me, Tarzan. You, Jane.”

“This new side of you is giving me a headache,” she said, even as she found herself smiling.

Oh hell, she thought as she looked down at the winding slide in front of her. “They want us to go down that? Onto what?”

“I’m guessing they’re not going to have us land on cement,” Gray said.

“Still, what if I land funnily on my hand? The stitches are out and it’s healed,” she said as she hesitantly settled into a sitting position, “but what if—HEY!”

Gray planted a palm against her back and gave her a shove. With a squeal she went sliding into darkness before landing

indelicately on what seemed to be a very bouncy mattress-like trampoline.

“Look out,” Gray called from the top of the slide, and she rolled to the side so she didn’t get crushed.

“Shit,” he muttered as he landed with a grunt. “I think you might have been right. This was not my best idea,” he said as they lay on their backs, trying to catch their breath.

Sophie couldn’t help it. She started giggling. After all that they’d been through, who’d have thought it would come to this? Both of them panting, slightly sweaty, and completely defeated by a pile of plastic, nylon, and nets. Turning his head to look at her, he smiled back, and then he too was laughing.

“Nobody can see us here, right?” he asked.

“Nah, I think they designed this as a reprieve. It lets the oldies like us catch our breath without prying eyes.”

“Good,” he said firmly.

And then he rolled toward her, and before she knew what was happening, Sophie found herself pinned between the padded floor and a hard male body. His mouth took hers with such fierce possession she gasped from the shock of it.

Unlike the kiss in the office, which had been a slow and deliberate exploration, this kiss felt like a brand. The insistent pressure of his lips against hers and the slick rhythm of his tongue left her brain no room to wonder or consider or analyze. There was nothing to do but feel.

He used his arms to brace himself above her, but wanting to feel more of him, she slid her hands around his shoulders and tugged, urging him to put all of his weight on her.

Gray complied and they both groaned at the contact. She didn’t know how long they stayed there, her arms locked around his neck, and his hands framing her face as they learned each other’s taste, their heads tilting this way and that without their lips ever breaking contact.

She felt his him grow hard against her thigh, and she rubbed herself against him. He swore and nipped her neck with his teeth. Dimly, Sophie became aware of the laughter outside dying out, and worried questions from the outside began to pierce her passion-drugged consciousness.

“What happened to them in there?”

“Are they stuck?”

“Should we send someone in after them?”

Turning her head to the side slightly, she pushed her hands against Gray’s shoulders. “Gray,” she said, her voice sounding husky.

“Mmm,” he said as his lips roamed over her face.

“We have to get moving. They’re going to send someone in after us. They think we’re stuck.”

Slowly he pulled back from her, and for the briefest moment she saw some new expression in his eyes that she hadn’t seen before. Something that went beyond desire or amusement. But it was gone before she could identify it, and she saw the moment reality slammed back into him and his eyes retained their usual cool, overcast expression.

With a fluid movement, he pushed to his feet, pulling her with him. “This way,” he said roughly, pulling her toward the next, and hopefully final, tunnel.

“Okay, so I guess we’re not going to talk about that,” she said in an attempt at lightness.

He didn’t respond, and merely shoved her up onto the next platform before pulling himself up beside her.

“Last stretch, Dalton. You ready to lose?”

“Oh, you’re on, Mr. Wyatt.”

And with that, they both broke into a run, pushing their way through a net room filled with foam tubes hanging from the ceiling. He had the advantage of strength, but her smaller size allowed her to more easily navigate the small spaces. They pushed and pulled at each other in an attempt to get ahead as the laughing crowds cheered them on.

“All right, Sophie!” she heard Jeff call. “That’s my girl!”

Gray paused momentarily, giving Sophie just the last bit of advantage she needed to dive toward the exit tube ahead of him.

She felt his hand grasp around her ankle and let out a girlish squeal as she tried to kick free. He held firm, and despite her squirming, he managed to get even with her as they each tried to push the other aside long enough to squeeze through the one last tube.

“You should let me win,” she gasped. “People will like you more.”

“When have I ever cared if people like me?” he muttered back, his own breath sounding a bit short.

She bit his forearm.

“What the hell!”

“Whoops. Instinct took over,” she said.

“Exactly what instinct is that, bobcat?”

He nudged her to the side, and she lost her advantage as the tubes fell back into place, blocking the exit.

“Argh, just let me through!” she exclaimed laughingly.

“Earn it.”

She went to nip him again, but he grabbed her disheveled ponytail and held her teeth away from his body.

“Christ, Sophie,” he said with a laugh. “I think you might be my…”

He broke off, and then shook his head as if to clear his brain.

“I might be your what,” she goaded. “Nemesis? Thorn in your side? Your demon?”

His lips quirked slightly and he laid his mouth against her ear in the pretense of pushing past her. “I think you might be mine,” he whispered.

And just like that, her world faded away. She forgot about the fact that she looked like she’d lived through a hurricane, forgot that there were a hundred people waiting for her to squeeze through an inflatable tube, and forgot that this man had once been everything she’d hated in the world.

Her shock paralyzed her, and his gray eyes glowed down at her before he gave her suddenly limp body a gentle shove, and with some kind of ridiculous war cry, he went diving through the tunnel ahead of her.

The crowd erupted in applause, and pulling herself together, she followed him through, careful not to let her now-damp sweater set ride up. She emerged to a crowd of people patting Gray on the back, and Jeff was there to pull her to her feet.

“Good show, Sophie,” Jeff said with a warm smile. “I thought you guys had died in there.”

“It was touch and go, believe me,” she said, as she was surrounded by her rowdy coworkers.

Stan Michaelson had fashioned a makeshift gold medal and was trying to place it around Gray’s neck, and her boss grinned almost boyishly as everyone clapped him on the back and demanded to hear about his technique.

Sophie smiled and laughed, and joined in with the chatter, but inside she was shaking at what had just happened. She willed Gray to look at her, just once so she could confirm that she hadn’t misheard him. That the kiss hadn’t been a dream.

But he was uncharacteristically hamming up his victory for his audience, and seemed to have forgotten that she existed.

Jeff slung an arm around her shoulders as he led her away from the crowd. “What time do you think this party’s wrapping up?”

Sophie glanced at her watch. “Oh! Crap! Any minute. I have to go talk with the coordinators. We only have this picnic area reserved until six o’clock.”

She started to dash off, but Jeff grabbed her arm.

“Have dinner with me?” he asked.

“Oh, um…” Sophie glanced up into Jeff’s classically handsome face. She’d always liked him, and the old Sophie might have even had something of a crush. But now he seemed so…bland.

“Come on, Soph, it’s not a marriage proposal. Just food,” he teased.

“Sorry, Jeff. She already has plans.”

Jeff and Sophie both spun around to see Gray standing a few feet away. She raised a challenging eyebrow at him, but didn’t break eye contact. What game was he playing now?

“Oh. Sure, sorry, boss,” Jeff said in obvious puzzlement.

“It was, um, part of our bet,” she said nervously to Jeff, hoping to avoid any awkward explanations. “I said I’d buy Mr. Wyatt dinner if he won.”

“That’s not why we’re having dinner,” Gray said, walking toward them.

“Okay, okay,” Jeff said raising his hands in bemused surrender. “I’ll let you guys work out whatever you need to. See you Monday.”

“Jeff…I…” Sophie said awkwardly, as he began to walk away. Jeff waved a hand at her as though dismissing the entire episode.

“Don’t worry about it, babe.” He winked and then spotted the cute receptionist. “Yo, Rachel! Wait up!”

“Hmm, he moves fast,” Gray said blandly.

“What was that about?” she hissed at the gloating man beside her.

“Let’s go, I’m starving.”

Her jaw dropped. “Just like that? And what do you mean, you’re starving? I had Seattle’s best caterers here. Didn’t you eat?”

“I don’t want that stuff, I want my cooking,” he said as he began storming toward the parking lot.

“Snob,” she said. But she found herself trailing after him, trying to figure out whether this was a continuation of their manufactured “friendship,” or a follow-up to the kiss.

Hell, maybe it was just a caveman routine. He didn’t want her, but didn’t want Jeff to have her either. His whispered words echoed through her mind again, and she nearly stumbled at the memory.