I brushed my fingers over the dummy’s skin…and it felt almost like real skin. It was even warm.
I swallowed hard and looked down at my dummy. "You’re lucky it’s me and not Liam, mister."
A short time later, I wiped my hands clean and took the disk that the judge held out for me, feeling vaguely queasy. That had been a little more realistic – dummy and all – than I had preferred.
No sooner had I received my disk and went out to greet my partner than another team showed up – Summer and Polly. Damn. How did they constantly get to the head of the pack? It was crazy. Hot on their heels were Abby and Dean and Tesla and Brodie. Almost everyone had caught up. I didn’t see the other two teams, but I was pretty sure they weren’t far behind.
Off to the side, Liam waved me down and I raced over to him with the disk. We hunched over it, reading the clue quietly. "Head to the harbor of Alexandria and look for the Pharos Lighthouse," I read aloud.
"One of the seven wonders of the ancient world," Liam murmured. "Interesting. I thought it was destroyed."
I’d never heard of the darn thing. "So how do we find something that’s destroyed?"
"It says to head to Alexandria," he pointed out. "Maybe someone there will know more."
We gathered up our things and returned to our waiting taxi.
Several hours later, we departed the train that had taken us to Alexandria and hailed another cab. While riding on the train, we’d borrowed someone’s smartphone and had a chance to do some research on the Pharos Lighthouse – it had apparently been found under the sea and there were diving tours that could get us to where we needed to go. I suspected that we’d find a flag at one of the diving stations.
With our cab driver, we searched the bay section. I spotted the cameras before I spotted the flag, and nudged Liam. "Over there."
He nodded, and we bounded out of the cab after paying the driver. Off atop a nearby hill, I could see Chip Brubaker waiting at the finish line. This had to be the right place. I took Liam’s pack as he headed to the scuba diving shop, meeting the judge with the flag.
The man handed him his task and Liam read it aloud. "Dive in the waters of Alexandria’s Eastern Harbor. Search the treasure chests along the bottom of the ocean for ten coins that depict the Lighthouse of Alexandria. Once you have all ten coins, proceed to the finish line." Liam glanced back at me and grinned. "Wish me luck."
“How about a good luck kiss?”
“Even better,” he said, moving toward me. Before I could take the initiative, his hand went to the back of my neck and he dragged me toward him in a quick, fierce kiss that left my knees weak.
"Good luck," I said, hugging his oversized backpack to my front, wobbly. "I’ll, um, be here."
He disappeared off with the production crew, and I sat down on a chair at the dock, waiting. I could at least watch and see who else showed up and make note of the order they arrived in. Unless Joel/Derron and Hal/Stefan showed up ahead of the others, they had to be in last place. A bad flight, maybe. It didn’t matter. We seemed to be safe for now.
Of course, as soon as that thought crossed my mind, I knocked on wood.
The diving shop sold snacks and cold bottles of water, and I made myself comfortable, waiting in a shady spot and eying the flag stop.
At least an hour crawled by. No Liam. No other contestants. I spun my water bottle and then purchased another and more snacks for Liam, because I knew he’d be hungry. We’d been going all morning long, and if his dive was taking this long, he was bound to be exhausted when he returned. I peered at the waters of the harbor, but didn’t see anything. I’d just wait here for him to return, since Chip was so close by.
A taxi pulled up a few minutes later. To my dismay, Brodie and Tesla jumped out of the cab. They’d gotten ahead of the rest of the group. Damn it. And now I was going to have to sit with one of them. Double damn.
I nearly groaned aloud when Tesla disappeared into the dive shop, leaving me with Brodie. Figured.
My brother sprawled onto the deck next to me and rested his head on his pack. "Hey, sis." He gestured at my water bottle. "I don’t suppose you’d give that to me? I’m wiped."
"They sell them in the shop, Brodie."
"Yeah, but Tesla and I are pretty low on funds at the moment." He grimaced. "She likes to spend money and we keep running out."
I eyed my brother’s sweaty hair and cracked lips, and sighed, handing the water bottle to him. "You hungry, too?"
"God yes, I’m starving."
I wordlessly handed him the bag of trail mix I’d been saving for Liam. "I’d give you some money but it’s not just mine."
"That’s okay," Brodie said, stuffing food into his mouth and taking a huge swig of water. "You are awesome, Katy, you know that?"
I just shook my head at Brodie. "I’m your sister. I’m not going to let you die on a dumb race."
He grinned and flopped back down on his bag. "This race is pretty awesome, actually."
It was, I had to admit. I was having a lot more fun than I’d anticipated…but most of that was due to Liam. "I’m still a bit mad at you for the partner swap," I told him. "You should have talked to me first."
"I just didn’t want Tesla to go, you know? I didn’t realize they were going to flip us." He shielded his eyes from the sun and squinted up at me. "I am sorry. You’re my sister. I didn’t want to screw you over."
I sighed. "I know." Brodie was just Brodie. Kind of thoughtless, really impulsive, but didn’t mean any harm. "So how’s Tesla in the partner department?"
"She’s pretty good," he said and gave me a wicked grin. "And she’s pretty good at the race."
"Gross, Brodie. Just gross."
He laughed, finished his water, and then gave the empty bottle a mournful look. Jeez, how long had they been without water or anything to eat? I returned to the shop, bought two more bottles and two more bags of trail mix, then sat next to Brodie again and wordlessly handed him one of each.
My brother enveloped me in a bear hug. "I love you, Katy."
"Yeah, yeah," I said, but I was feeling a little better about me and Brodie. I gave my brother a hug back and then nudged his shoulder. "You tell Tesla to watch it on the money, all right? We don’t get that much for each leg, and it’s probably stupid of me to be buying you stuff since we’re competing."
"Is Liam a good diver?" Brodie asked, looking a bit too interested. "Tesla says she is. If we can pass you guys, we get first place."
I had no idea if Liam was a good diver, but I wanted first place. "Don’t know. How were the others doing at the mummy challenge?"
He made a face. "Dean’s a machine. He was ripping through it. Polly was kind of grossed out. The other two didn’t show up while we were there."
"Wow, their flights must have really been backed up. Poor guys." Two all-male teams, both delayed. They’d be neck and neck until the end – I didn’t want to be in that race to the finish line.
He nodded. "It’s gonna be one of them eliminated. I just know it."
It sure seemed that way.
A cameraman zoomed past, filming something. Both Brodie and I leapt to our feet to see who was coming.
Liam’s tall body trotted down the dock, still in the wetsuit, dripping water. I gave a happy little jump and grabbed our bags, heading toward him.
"Congrats, Katy," my brother called out to me. "We’ll get you next time."
"In your dreams," I called back, grinning. I gave Liam a quick one-armed hug as I met him and then pointed at Chip. "Finish line’s right up there."
Liam looked exhausted, his wet hair pushed off his brow in a messy tangle. "That challenge," he breathed, "was awful. Do you know how many chests there are at the bottom of the harbor? My god. I thought I’d never find ten with coins. And then not all of the coins are lighthouse coins. You have to dig through them looking for the right ones."
My eyes widened. "Glad you did it and not me."
We raced up to top of the hill and met Chip. The finish line tape was intact, and I had to admit that it felt amazing to bust through it, hand in hand, and bound onto the mat in front of the host.
"Liam and Katy! You’re the first team to arrive!"
I gave a happy squeal – even though we’d known it – and flung myself into Liam’s arms. He kissed me full on the mouth in response.
Chip laughed. "Seems like your partnership is working out all right."
"Seems to be," I said, pulling my now-wet t-shirt away from my chest and wiping at Liam’s dripping wet-suit.
"Well, as the winners of this leg of the race, I have an additional prize for you two." Chip gave us both a teasing look, and then produced an envelope from behind his back. "The second Ace of the game."
I stared at it, then groaned.
Damn it. Another Ace? That was the last thing I wanted. "Can’t we, like, trade that in for a trip to Fiji or something?"
Chip frowned and held the Ace out. "You don’t want it?"
I looked over at Liam, who took it in hand. "No, we’ll take it. Better us than another team."
Chip nodded. “It’s all yours, then. Congratulations!”
I tried to look thrilled, and failed.
The host glanced down at his watch. "You have twelve hours until the next leg of the race. Enjoy your stay."
We headed into Alexandria for the day. Both Liam and I were too tired to argue with the cab driver when he suggested a particular hotel that was very nice and tourist friendly. Usually that meant ‘expensive,’ especially if the cab driver was suggesting it. Still, the hotel he dropped us off at was decent looking on the outside, and the rooms reasonable.
As we headed up the stairs to our room, my mind focused on the conversation we’d had at the bottom of the Great Pyramid. Of Liam’s sultry promise to me. Of spending the day in bed and kissing for hours. Of making love.
Of course, all of that came to a crashing halt as soon as we opened the door to the hotel room.
It was a small room, which wasn’t a problem. It was also clean, and neat, and had an old TV perched atop a dresser. It also had twin beds. Two rather tiny twin beds.
I giggled. I couldn’t help myself. I looked at the sight of those two small beds, and it just bubbled up inside of me. Romantic evening cuddling together? Not in those bunks.
Liam chuckled, too, and dropped his bags on the threshold. "I…guess we could ask for a different room? I didn’t think to ask about the beds."
I shook my head. "It’s okay. Maybe things just weren’t meant to be." I grinned over at him. "You’re probably pretty tired after that last leg of the race."
"Not that tired," he said in a disgusted voice, and I broke out into giggles again.
He shut the door to the bedroom behind us, and then he moved to my side. His hand stroked my cheek and then he leaned in and kissed me, his mouth moving over mine in a tender, gentle kiss. When it broke, he looked down at me. "I still want you, Katy. You still want me?"
I nodded up at him. "More than anything."
"Then I think we should push these beds together," he told me, his voice husky. "And enjoy our downtime."
I kissed him again, my hand sliding along his shirt. He’d given back the wetsuit after we’d checked in for the race, and changed back into his own clothing. I brushed my fingers under his shirt to feel his warm chest underneath. "Do you have condoms?"