"And what if the Ace means another split?" I hated the thought of it.
I shielded my eyes from the sun and squinted up at my partner. "How do you know that?"
"Because splitting us up made good TV." He leaned in and gave me a firm kiss on the mouth, ignoring the fact that the cameraman hovered merely feet away. "Splitting us up again robs them of a lot of romantic scenes. Tesla and Brodie, too. They won’t part us."
I blushed and handed him the wheel back. "So what do we do?"
"Whatever you want to do," Liam told me, his expression serious. "I’m leaving it up to you."
"Up to me?" I hated the squeaky note in my voice. "Why me?"
He squatted by the pieces, sorting through the jumble, the wheel still in his hand. I knew we should have been working on the task, but I wanted to get this squared away.
"It’s up to you," Liam told me, picking up a painted dowel rod and comparing it to the hole in the center of the wheel he was holding, then discarding it. "Because it won’t bother me either way. Dean’s a good friend, but he won’t hold a grudge if we don’t save them. But I know you and Abby are close. As for Tesla?" He glanced up at me and grinned. "I don’t care if she’s mad at me after the race, but Brodie’s your brother. You gotta do whatever you gotta do. The Ace is your choice."
"Well, you’re definitely a different partner than Brodie," I grumped, squatting next to the pieces with him. "He wouldn’t have asked for my opinion."
"I should hope I’m a very different partner than Brodie," Liam said, and wiggled his eyebrows at me.
I blushed beet red. I was pretty sure the camera caught it, too. "I think I’m going to save Abby and Dean. They’ve worked with us. It’d be unfair for us to leave them out to dry.”
Liam nodded. “Sounds good to me.”
We had the bottom half of our wooden-horse-on-wheels constructed when a flood of cars suddenly showed up in the parking lot. I snapped a board into place, then grimaced as I watched the other four teams charge forward. "Looks like everyone caught up," I told Liam.
He grunted, continuing to work on our horse.
Abby and Dean trotted up to the challenge mat next to ours and began to work on their horse. I glanced over at her. "What happened?"
"Our cab driver was an idiot," she told me. "He took us over an hour in the wrong direction and then tried to charge us for it." She made a disgusted face and pushed her sweaty curls off of her forehead. "Luckily, I pitched a fit and got us out of it."
"The good news," Dean leaned in to tell me with a grin, "was that apparently everyone else was following our cab. Which is why we’re all late except you two."
I glanced at the other teams. They all looked pretty annoyed. Brodie’s forehead was set in frustrated lines, and I felt a twinge of pity for my brother. He wanted to win this race so badly and they were not doing well at all. I squashed the pity, though. Brodie wouldn’t help me if the tables were turned.
"Hand me that piece?" Liam told me, interrupting my guilty thoughts. I automatically handed it over to him and began to work on our horse once more.
The arrival of the other teams spurred us on, and a few short minutes later, we had used all of our wood and had a rather rickety-looking horse completed. There was a handlebar on each side for us to push on, and Liam and I pushed ours forward, heading for the marked path.
It was like pushing a shopping cart that was full of sand and held together by string. The thing creaked and groaned as if it were dying with every bump, and the tail wobbled like it was going to fall off. We pushed through the maze of walls and ruins, grimly determined. To my relief, our Trojan Horse held together and we crossed the finish line of the marked path.
The Greek soldier was there in his corny costume, and gave us our disk with a flourish. We took it from him with a nod, and quickly read the back. Take a train to Nevsehir. From there, take a bus or taxi to Cappadocia, Turkey. Make your way to the Goreme Open Air Museum to receive your next challenge.
"A train?" I asked, surprised. This was the first train we’d been instructed to take.
"Maybe they want us all to bunch up together again," Liam guessed. "Come on. Maybe if we hurry, we can catch an earlier departure."
He put his hand out for me to take and I clasped it, racing alongside him as we ran through the ruins and back toward the parking lot, heading for the car. As we did, we passed the others, still working on their horses. No one looked close to done, though everyone stopped and looked at us as we ran past, cameraman racing next to us.
I turned, dropping Liam’s hand at the sound of my brother’s voice.
Brodie was on the far side of the horse, and he was frowning. He waved me over as if he wanted to talk to me. I hesitated, looking back at Liam.
He’d stopped too, and was watching me.
"Brodie wants to say something to me," I told my partner in a low voice.
Liam glanced at the cars, then back at me, clearly impatient but trying to hide it. "He might be trying to slow you down, or get information from you about the horse so he can get ahead of the others."
That did sound like my brother. I looked over at him again. "What is it?" I called back.
Brodie gave me an exasperated look and waved me over again, not wanting to say whatever it was aloud. He was definitely up to something.
I shook my head and gave him an apologetic look, then grabbed Liam’s hand again. We raced back toward the cars and jumped back into ours. I pulled out the maps, studying for the nearest train station. "We should probably head back into Canakkale. The city’s big enough that any train station would be there."
"Gotcha," Liam said, easing the car back onto the highway.
I glanced back out the rearview window. Brodie was watching us leave, even as Tesla knelt on the ground, piecing together the horse. My brother didn’t look upset, just thoughtful.
And I wondered what it was he’d been trying to tell me.
The train to Nevsehir was a sleeper. I eyed it skeptically, considering that we were the only ones in our small compartment. Either we’d had some serious luck, or this was another ‘tweak’ by the race runners to give the couples on the race some more alone time.
"Don’t you find it suspicious that we keep getting stuck alone together?" I asked him as we set our backpacks down.
"Suspicious, yes. Unpleasant? Not in the slightest." He leaned in and pressed a kiss to my mouth. "Besides, you heard the lady at the train station. We could have taken a fourteen hour bus ride. Let’s just count our blessings."
He had a point. The lady at the train station had tried to convince us (repeatedly) that we should have gone by bus. It would be much faster, she told us. It would leave much earlier than the train, which left at the end of the evening. But the race had said train, so we took the train.
I eyed the tiny bunk beds in the sleeper car. Perhaps I was too suspicious after all. Those didn’t look exactly big enough to get frisky on. "I suppose." I glanced down the hallway of the train car as other passengers moved past. It was late at night and I didn’t see too many people around. If there was anyone else on the race in this car, they weren’t out and about. "Do you think the others got on this same train?"
"Without a doubt," he told me. "I can’t imagine anyone spent hours building that horse."
I nodded. He had a point.
"Come on," Liam told me, shutting the door and hanging a ‘do not disturb’ placard outside. He wiggled his eyebrows at me suggestively. "You have to be tired."
"Are you tired?" I asked in a light voice.
"Exhausted," he told me, his voice husky as he sat down on the lower bunk and tugged me between his legs. "I was just thinking we should lie down and relax."
I arched an eyebrow at him. "So I guess this means I get the top bunk?"
"And where are you sleeping?"
"Oh, were we talking about sleeping?" His hand slid down to cup my ass. "I think, perhaps, we’re talking about two different things, my lovely pig-tailed Katy."
"Mmm." I ran my thumb along his lower lip, then grazed it over his piercings. "Maybe you should be more specific as to what you were thinking of."
"I was thinking," he said, flexing those delicious fingers over my buttocks. "That maybe I’d climb into this bed and you’d squeeze in next to me and we’d see what color condoms we had in store for today."
I laughed softly at that, my fingers moving to brush his shaggy hair out of his eyes. "That doesn’t sound like a bad idea to me."
"I think it’s a f**king awesome idea, personally," he said, and leaned in, pressing his face between the valley of my br**sts. "Because I haven’t been able to get you out of my mind all day."
Just like that, all the teasing in me vanished, and every nerve ending flared to life. I sucked on a breath, my fingers tightening on his scalp as he nuzzled between my br**sts, then kissed the curve of one through the fabric.
"Want to take this off?" Liam asked me, tugging at the hem of my shirt.
Did I ever. I ripped it over my head, exposing my belly and the ugly sports bra they’d given all the contestants. I quickly dragged the bra over my head as well, my torso bare.
Liam leaned in again, brushing his lips over my breastbone and then kissing the now-naked curve of my breast. I shivered, leaning against him, my eyes closed as I enjoyed the sensations. His mouth nipped at my skin, a languid trail to the tip of my breast.
I sucked in a breath when his mouth latched on to my nipple and he rolled it against the piercing on his tongue. A little moan escaped me as his hand slid to my other breast, his fingers plucking and playing with my nipple as his mouth worked the other in tandem. He felt so good against me, and I could feel my pulse racing at his touch, desire centering between my legs in response to his touch. "God, Liam, your mouth."
"And here I’ve always thought my fingers were the talented ones," he murmured against my breast, then bit lightly at one nipple even as he tweaked the other.
I whimpered, my knees going weak, and I sagged against him, clinging to his broad shoulders.
"Such pretty br**sts, Katy," he murmured. "So small and perky, just like you."
"I don’t know if you should be telling a girl that her br**sts are tiny," I told him, then sucked in another breath when he nipped at the underside of my breast with his teeth.
"I like their size," he told me. "A perfect mouthful." And he slowly licked my breast, that piercing flashing against my skin.
I moaned, pressing up against him. "I want to lick you, too."
"But I’m enjoying licking you so much," he protested, flicking his tongue over my aching, hard nipple. "You wouldn’t want to take that away from me, would you?"
"Never," I breathed, and my hand slid between his legs, stroking his c*ck through his clothing. He was already rock hard against my hand. "But I never got my turn to lick this."
He groaned then, and his hand left my breast, both of them moving to the waistband of my pants and tugging them down my legs. "Want you nak*d, Katy. Naked and sprawled under me right now."