They reached the front entrance and stood behind the crew as a young kid recited the rules.
During a pause, Sarge asked, “So we’re not on teams?”
“No, sir. Everyone has a partner. Who you ended up with was luck of the draw.”
“Except for Devin and Liberty,” Crash pointed out.
More grumbles. Some loud enough he could hear.
Odette piped up first. “How come you two get to be partners and no one else who is a couple does?”
“Because I’m the boss and I knew you’d all be gunning for me. I needed an extra edge, which I got because Liberty is an expert paintballer.”
Once the guy started speaking again, Liberty’s warm lips connected with his ear. “I should be upset you’re so good at stretching the truth, but I’m more annoyed that you put me in the line of fire with that ‘expert’ comment.”
He bit back a groan. The whisper of her breath sent gooseflesh rippling across his body. He held in another groan when the scent of her skin hit him. Why did the woman always smell like chocolate and vanilla? He wanted to bury his face in her neck and run his lips across her heated flesh to find out if she tasted like pure decadence.
“Devin?” she murmured.
“I’m fine,” he said loud enough that two roadies turned and looked at him.
“As long as there aren’t any other questions, I’ll meet you all in the equipment room in fifteen minutes.”
Sarge whistled. “Sweatshirts for everyone in the truck.”
“That’s one way to make sure we all look alike,” Tay grumbled.
Jase slapped her ass. “Wrong. You’ll still be the sexiest one out there. What say we have a murder/suicide pact? Then, when these clowns are shooting at each other, we can sneak back to the bus and take extra time scrubbing each other clean.”
“I hope their shower is bigger than mine,” Liberty said. “There’s hardly room for just me in there.”
“You’re welcome to use my shower whenever you want,” Devin offered.
That took her aback. “Sure. Thanks. Maybe I will.”
Devin steered her toward the equipment truck. Crash and Sarge were whipping gray sweatshirts into the air. “That’s a good way to get rid of the shit that isn’t selling.”
He snatched the shirt Crash lobbed at him.
Liberty held hers out and squinted at the image. “Who decided that a—”
“Microphone in front of my open mouth was a good idea? It looks like I’m about to suck a big dick, huh?”
She laughed. “Yes.”
“I normally donate leftover clothing to homeless shelters or to the reservations in Wyoming, but I’d be happier to burn these motherfuckers at the bonfire tonight.”
“At least you can laugh about it.”
“Better than cryin’. Come on. Let’s get ready to kick some ass.”
After they’d changed and were walking back, Devin said, “What’s the plan?”
“Try not to get nailed with a paintball,” she said dryly.
“Besides that. Don’t you have a stealth-attack strategy?”
“Nope. Shoot first, shoot often.”
They stood in line for paintball markers—aka paintball guns—and masks. Once everyone had been outfitted in the protective outer layer, the paintball master went over the rules. “What you’re playing is a variation of woodsball—a capture-the-flag game. We have four acres of game area behind us in which we’ve placed ten flags. Your goal is not to capture just one of the flags, but as many flags as you can.” He held up a helmet. “On the top are dowel holders for the flags. If you capture a flag, you must display it.”
“So other players can kill you and steal your flag?”
The guy grinned. “Yep. Finding the flags isn’t the problem. Keeping them without getting taken out is the issue. If your partner is taken out, you’re not automatically out. You can still win. Immediate kill zone is anywhere near the heart or head. Three paintball strikes anywhere on your body puts you out. Any questions?”
Liberty raised her hand. “Why are there only five slots on the top of the helmet if there are ten flags? Shouldn’t there be ten slots?”
“Sweetheart, no one has ever captured more than five flags.”
Sweetheart? That was condescending. Although . . . sometimes Devin called Liberty sweetheart. Did she get that look of extreme annoyance on her face when he did it?
She gritted her teeth in what was supposed to pass as a smile. But he knew if the game master were playing this round? He’d be the first one in Liberty’s crosshairs.
Good thing G.I. Jane was on his side.
Two hours later they were down to three teams and a couple of renegades.
“Can you see who’s behind that big oak tree thirty yards to your right?” Liberty asked.
“Shit. We’ll have to go around and try to flank him from the back.”
“But he’s alone. There’s two of us and one of him.”
“Which just means that Check, his partner, also a military guy, is someplace close, watching his six.”
If it made him a pervert to get a boner when she slipped into military speak, so be it, because that was f**king hot.
“How do you know Check hasn’t been taken out?”
“Sarge wouldn’t be so visible. He’s trying to draw us out so Check can take the shot.”