The shower did a lot to restore my mood. By the time I emerged from it, fresh scrubbed and in a clean set of clothes, I felt almost human again.
Liam sat up when I emerged from the bathroom, my wet hair twisted into a sleek knot on top of my head. "Shall we go out to dinner?"
I smiled, still feeling a little out of sorts after our kiss. "I guess we can’t visit Italy and not eat some food before we go, right?"
We left our backpacks in the room but kept our necessities – money, passports, room key – with us. I was disappointed to see there was a cameraman waiting in the hall when we left our room, but I supposed that was his job. I ignored it and headed down the hall with Liam, both of us trying to act like we weren’t being tailed.
We exchanged a bit more of our money and then walked the city streets, trying to find a place to eat that wouldn’t be too pricey. One place smelled absolutely heavenly, but the prices on the street chalkboard were more than I’d wanted to spend.
Liam stopped in front of the restaurant, as if reading my mind. "We could split the food and only spend half the money."
"Now you’re talking," I told him, and we headed inside.
As we sat down at one of the tables, I smiled over at Liam and put my napkin in my lap…and froze. This was…
He noticed the weird look on my face and laughed. "This feels like a date, doesn’t it?"
I nodded. "You feel it, too?"
"Can’t help it," he told me as the waiter approached. He glanced over his shoulder, where the cameraman hovered, still filming. "That kind of kills the mood, though."
That it did.
Our waiter didn’t speak a lick of English, but between him and a helpful person at another table, we managed to communicate that we wanted to order one plate and share it. We didn’t know what to order, so the waiter suggested in rapid-fire Italian that we get the special of the day. And it wasn’t Italian food without wine, so our helper at the next table ordered us two glasses, despite our protests. We looked like a nice young couple, he told us, which made me giggle nervously.
Liam just reached out and took my hand from across the table.
My eyes widened. "What are you doing?"
"He’s buying us wine," Liam told me with a grin. "The least we can do is look like a happy couple." When I began to protest, he lifted my hand to his mouth, kissed the back, and murmured, "Good TV, remember?"
"Blackmailer," I said, but I laughed.
He winked at me, and then rubbed his thumb across my knuckles.
A prickle of awareness moved over my skin and I pulled my hand away just as the waiter brought us our wine. I sipped it, then made an exclamation of surprise. "Wow, this is really good."
Liam tasted his, and then agreed. "Doesn’t taste a bit like that stuff I stomped earlier today."
I laughed again. "At least you didn’t have to stare at giant penises."
He snorted. "I am sure I could have handled that challenge just fine."
I tilted my head. "You’re used to handling giant penises?"
He wagged his eyebrows at me, that piercing moving back and forth. "I handle one in particular every day."
"I…walked right into that one, didn’t I?"
I chuckled and shook my head. "I take full responsibility, then."
"You did well today," he said, his voice growing serious. "Extremely well. I think Brodie messed up in switching partners."
A glow of pleasure spread through me. "Oh?"
He nodded. "Tesla’s aggressive, but she also high maintenance. If she gets tired, he’s going to hear about it. If she’s hungry, she needs fine dining. I was tired of her on day one." His mouth curled into one of those secretive smiles. "But I can’t say that to her or she’ll complain to the label."
"Well, Brodie seems to like her just fine," I said. "He was quick to ditch his little sister as soon as a hot rock star showed up."
"He’s an idiot," Liam said. "You’re one of the reasons we’ve been doing so well on our challenges. You’re smart and you work hard and you never complain. Like I said, I think I lucked out."
His praise was making me glow. "You’re just saying that because you kissed me earlier."
"Actually," he said slowly, drawing the word out. "If you want to get technical, you kissed me. Twice now."
I stared at him. Oh. I guess I had. Twice now. "Um." I had no idea what to say to that.
"I’m just teasing you, Katy," he said. "I wasn’t exactly fighting to get away either time."
"No, you weren’t, were you?" I regained a bit of my confidence at that. "Nor were you fighting to get away when I woke up and you were sprawled all over me."
He just grinned. "Can I help it if you were hogging the only bed in the room?" He shrugged his big shoulders. "Besides, you were so small and cuddly looking, I couldn’t help myself."
I felt myself get warm again, and knew I was blushing. I sipped my wine, thankful that the waiter arrived with a large plate of pasta and set it down in front of Liam. It smelled delicious.
He raised an eyebrow at me. "I guess this is all mine."
"Screw that," I told him, and pulled my chair to the side of the table so I could better access the plate. "You’re sharing or I’m throwing the next challenge and we’re through."
"Well, I don’t want that," Liam murmured, and the look he gave me was hot with need. It was the same look he’d given me when we were curled around each other on the bed, and my pulse fluttered wildly in response.
We had two sets of forks, but the food was so pretty that I didn’t know where to start. I hovered my fork uncertainly. It looked like an angel hair pasta covered with some sort of chunky, vegetable red sauce, and fresh mussels lined the bowl, artfully cracked open.
Liam got a wicked look in his eyes as he saw me hesitate. He inclined his head at the cameraman hovering in the distance, ever filming. "Want to make some good TV?"
"I’m not sure I like that look in your eyes," I teased. Did I want to make good TV? Did I ever.
He stabbed his fork into the food, and began to swirl it in the rich noodles and sauce. Then, when he’d crafted a forkful, he held it out to me to eat.
He was going to feed me.
"You sneak," I whispered, and leaned in, mouth open and lips parted. I watched his gaze drop there, and felt my body flush with his attention again. Then, he pushed the fork into my mouth carefully.
I pulled away, chewing as the flavors burst on my tongue. It was delicious, and I gave a little moan of delight. The forkful had been messy, though, and a bit of sauce lingered on my cheek. I reached up with my napkin, and Liam stopped me. Instead, he leaned in and lightly ran his tongue over my cheek, tasting the sauce.
"Delicious," he told me a second later in that husky voice.
And every note in my body sang.
"Turnabout’s fair play," I told him, and tugged the plate toward me. I swirled a few noodles onto my fork and then lifted it for him to take. And when Liam leaned in to eat off of my fork? I had to admit that it was pretty erotic.
After the initial sharing, our hunger took over and we ate like normal people. Liam refused to eat the mussels, and I knew he was thinking of mukluk. I laughed and ate them all, since I had a cast-iron stomach. They were delicious, too, fresh from the Mediterranean. All of the food was incredible, and so was the wine. We even splurged on a dessert, because how could we not?
Eventually, though, our meal was done, our wine drank. My eyes were beginning to droop with exhaustion, and Liam glanced at a clock. "If we head back to the hotel soon, we can probably get another six hours of sleep before we have to head out to the starting line."
I gave him a sleepy smile. "That sounds good to me."
His gaze focused on my face. "I can sleep on the floor, if it really does make you uncomfortable to share the bed with me."
I shook my head. "I wouldn’t do that to you, Liam. You know that." After a moment, I added, "And it doesn’t make me uncomfortable. I kind of like it."
We paid for the food and headed back out into the warm night. When Liam reached for my hand, I automatically took his and we strolled, hand in hand, back to the hotel. By the time we got back to our room, we were so tired that we didn’t do more than take our shoes off and crawl under the covers. He pulled me against him and we spooned again, but this time, all we did was sleep.
There’d be time enough for more flirting in the morning. For now? We needed to rest up so we could be on our A game.
"You know, when the label made me come on this race, I didn’t think beyond the fact that I was going to have to cater to Tesla for the next few weeks. I didn’t expect to get partners flipped, and I didn’t expect to meet anyone like Katy. She’s, well, she’s pretty incredible. I’m fascinated by her and I find myself wanting to spend every waking moment just watching her. How she moves, how she thinks. I’ve got it bad, don’t I? I’m going on like a freaking sap." — Liam Brogan, Egypt Leg of The World Races
Somewhere around three in the morning, Italy time, we woke up and headed back out to the flag site in front of Pompeii. A man in a white toga waited for us, and when we arrived at the starting line, he promptly handed us our next disk.
I took it, flipped it over, and began to read. "Make your way to the Pyramids at Giza in Egypt and look for the next flag station. You have one hundred dollars for this leg of the race." I looked at Liam. "We’re rich."
He laughed, rubbing his eyes. We were both still worn out from our interrupted sleep, but trying desperately to wake up. "We are. A hundred dollars might buy us another hotel room for the next stop."
"Nice," I said, tucking the disk under my arm and trying not to blush too much. "It’ll be good to get a real night’s sleep."
Yeah, because I was totally not thinking about sleep at the moment. I was thinking about how it’d felt to wake up that morning with Liam curled around me again, both of us under the covers and fully dressed. His arm had been around me again, and my legs had been tangled with his. Instead of facing away from him, though, I’d woken up and found my head was on his chest as if he were my pillow.
And it had been awesome.
There hadn’t been time to kiss or make out this morning, though. It had been all race, all the time. A little disappointing, but we needed to keep our heads in the game if we wanted to beat Brodie and Tesla.
We headed away from the starting line, and as we did, Liam spoke. "We can head straight to the airport, or we can see if there’s a nearby travel agency and book tickets ahead of time. Grab some breakfast, too."
"That sounds good," I said with a yawn. "I could use some coffee."
The race had called taxis for us, and we instructed ours to head to the nearest travel agency. We found an all-night one and headed in. At the sight of a computer in the main area, Liam glanced over at me. "Why don’t I order tickets and you look up information online? See what we can find out about the pyramids. Visiting hours and stuff like that."
"Sure." I headed over to the computer. There was a placard in front of it that said "Uso Gratuito" and "Free Use" underneath in English, and a smaller sentence underneath in Italian that I couldn’t make out, but was probably "No porn" or something. I sat down and began to web search for the Great Pyramids and travel. There were a million links, of course, so I clicked on the first one and began to read.