Chased by love love in b.., p.14
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       Chased by Love (Love in Bloom: The Ryders): Trish Ryder, p.14

           Melissa Foster
 
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  “Okay, then, good luck!” The woman hurried toward the creek waving her hands. “She’s pregnant!”

  Trish burst into hysterics. “Don’t kill me.”

  “Oh, I’m going to kill you, all right. Pregnant?” He set her on the hood of the car and kissed her hard. “Pregnant?”

  Laughter burst from her mouth. “At least I said we were married instead of saying you were my brother or something.”

  “Brother?” He laughed. “You’re insane, and pushy, and you put me in a really difficult position. I should hate you, but…” His eyes heated. “Do you have any idea how much I like you?”

  She scooted forward on the hood and locked her legs around his waist. “About nine inches worth.”

  “Hey! Ten, easy.” He slid his hands into her hair, taking her in a long, languid kiss that went on forever and left them both breathless.

  “Mm. You deserve an award.”

  “For the kiss?”

  “For nailing that scene like a pro.” She tugged him in close again. “Now kiss me again, you fake impregnator.”

  As their lips came together, Boone’s phone rang. He pulled it from his pocket and his face blanched. “It’s Jude.”

  Chapter Fifteen

  BOONE STUFFED HIS clothes into a suitcase after calling Harvey and Honor to let them know he’d heard from Jude and he was on his way to their old neighborhood to meet up with him. He’d also called his mother. She had been a safe haven for his friends in their darkest hours, and if he knew Jude, now that he said he was ready to get help, he would probably end up at his mother’s house before the night was over.

  He zipped his bag, thinking about Destiny. If only she had turned to his mother all those years ago. But her distrust of adults had run deeper than her desire to get clean.

  “I’m ready.”

  Boone spun around. Trish stood in the doorway holding her suitcase and carrying a big bag over her shoulder. His stomach knotted up. “For…?”

  “To go with you, of course.” She smiled brightly.

  He’d been so wrapped up in the relief and worry that Jude’s call had brought, he hadn’t thought about Trish wanting to come along. He set his suitcase by the door and tugged her in close. “I’m sorry, beautiful, but you can’t come with me.”

  “Can’t, or you don’t want me to?” Her eyes narrowed, and he had no doubt she already knew the answer.

  “It’s not that I don’t want you with me,” he explained. “This isn’t going to be fun. Jude’s high as a kite, holed up in some abandoned house with God knows who else. I don’t know if he’ll still be there when I get there, or who he’ll be with. I don’t want you around that.”

  “I had a feeling you might say that. But you didn’t take into account that I don’t want you going into that situation alone.” She went up on her toes and pressed a firm kiss to his lips. “There’s nothing I can’t handle, and at the end of the day, after you do whatever you need to do with Jude, I want to be there for you. You’re on my list, remember?”

  How could he forget? It meant the world to him, and he wanted to stay on that list for as long as she’d let him. “This is different.”

  “No, it’s not,” she said adamantly. “Siamese twins, remember? Where you go, I go, and vice versa. We don’t have long to get through the rest of the scenes so we can whip through filming when the crew gets here.”

  The movie. Was that what all of this was about? Was she playing up to him because of the damn movie? Had she been all along? His mind took that idea and ran with it, because why else would a movie star like Trish want to go rescue a junkie in the dregs of New York? Hell, why would she want to be locked away in a farmhouse for ten days? I’m such an idiot.

  He picked up his suitcase and headed down the stairs with Trish on his heels.

  “Coming with me is not going to get you an Oscar.”

  She dropped her suitcase at the bottom of the stairs with a thunk. “That was low, and cruel.” The torment in her voice was nothing compared to the anguish in her eyes. “Running away isn’t going to make your feelings for me go away.”

  Damn it. He was an idiot, all right. He dropped his suitcase and gathered her in his arms, astonished by her vehemence and his stupidity to even contemplate that her feelings had been an act. She tried to push away, but he held her tighter.

  “I’m so sorry, baby. I wasn’t thinking. Or I was overthinking. My head is totally messed up right now. My insides are going a million miles an hour because I want to get to Jude before he does something stupid or takes off again.” He gazed into her eyes, and pain pierced his heart. “Remember when I told you I’d screw up?”

  She cracked a small smile, though hurt lingered in her eyes. “You’re a jerk, you know that? How can you think I’m worried about an Oscar after how close we’ve gotten?”

  “Because I am an idiot.” He pressed a kiss to her forehead and heard a meow. Sparky’s head popped out of the bag hanging over her shoulder. “You packed Sparky?”

  “Unlike you, I don’t leave behind anyone I care about.”

  He hugged her and breathed deeply. “I care very much about you, and about him. I just don’t want you around that nightmare.”

  “Trust me, Boone. What you don’t want is to tell me what I can and can’t do. I’m not very likable when I’m mad.”

  He took her hand in his. “I have a feeling nothing could make you unlikable. Are you sure you want to do this? I’m driving to New York, and if I can convince Jude to go to rehab, Harvey’s going to take him. I’m too high profile, and Jude doesn’t need that. But it could be a grueling night of searching and arguments and who knows what else.”

  She went up on her toes and kissed him. “That’s why I wore my jeans and sneakers. So I can run and look tough and have your back.”

  He wasn’t about to tell her that a beautiful waif like her, no matter how tough, would offer no protection where they were going. Or that if he had his way, he’d drop her off at his mother’s house to keep her safe once they got there. As she looked at him with the confidence of a person three times her size and strength, he knew he was wrong. She offered him protection against himself—and his ability to push people away.

  This was not going to be an easy trip, but having her with him would make it bearable. He just needed to figure out how to keep her safe.

  Several hours later they drove down the dark, deserted streets where he’d grown up. Boone was used to the immediate and intense feelings of caution and unease that crept over his skin and hardened like armor whenever he visited his old stomping grounds. But tonight the feeling was even more profound, because tonight he had Trish to look after. She looked out the window at the old apartment buildings, each one in worse shape than the next, and pulled her shoulders in tight, covering Sparky protectively with her hands as he slept in her lap. Missing windows gaped like black eyes on weathered and worn brick faces. Graffiti defaced the desolate buildings. Battered and rancid furniture sat on cracked and dirty sidewalks. A group of thuglike teenagers huddled on a porch step.

  “This is where you grew up?” Trish asked, without a hint of judgment.

  “Nearby,” he said. His phone rang, and his mother’s image flashed on the screen. He answered it, watching Trish take in the streets he was sure were vastly different from where she’d grown up.

  “Hi, sweetheart,” his mother said. “Jude is here.”

  Worry and relief fought for dominance. “Are you okay? Is he okay?” He turned to Trish, said, “Hold on tight,” and made a quick U-turn, speeding toward his mother’s house.

  “He’s okay,” his mother said. “Exhausted. He’s lying down in Lucky’s room. The poor boy, he needs help.”

  “Mom, where’s Lucky? Are you okay? I should be there in less than ten minutes.” He didn’t like his mother alone with anyone who was on drugs, and even though he trusted Jude, he’d feel better if Lucky were there, too.

  “Oh, sweetheart, you know Jude would never hurt me. I’m fine.” Sh
e sighed. “And Lucky? I don’t know. Work? Out with friends? You know, he’s at that age.”

  Yeah, the self-centered, unreliable age Boone couldn’t wait for him to outgrow. “Okay, let Jude be, Mom, just in case. I’ll be there as fast as I can. Can you call Harvey and Honor and let them know he’s with you and that I’ll call them after I talk to Jude?”

  “Of course.”

  “Thanks. Love you.”

  After he ended the call, he met Trish’s curious gaze. “Jude’s at my mom’s house.”

  “That’s good, right? At least he’s safe.”

  He reached for her hand. “Yes, it’s good. He trusts my mom, and this means he really does want help. Thank you for not tossing me to the curb for being inconsiderate earlier. I’m glad you’re here with me.”

  “You’re not annoyed that I was pushy?”

  “No, beautiful. I’m annoyed with myself for thinking I had to keep you out of this part of my life.”

  **

  IF TRISH THOUGHT she was nervous riding down the scary-looking streets a few minutes ago, she’d been sorely mistaken. The idea of meeting Boone’s mother had spiders crawling along her nerves.

  “Are you sure Sparky will be okay in the car? I can wait out here with him,” she suggested as they rushed up the front steps of his mother’s split-foyer home. He looked as nervous as she did, but she knew that was because he was worried about Jude.

  “He’ll be fine until we get Jude settled. Then we’ll bring him in.” He pushed open the door and flew inside. “Mom?”

  Trish took in her cozy surroundings. Hardwood floors led from the foyer to the tidy living room. Red couches created a nook by a television set and two bookcases. A wooden rocking chair sat by one of two smallish windows. Colorful throw pillows complemented pretty floral curtains. There were pictures on every surface and hanging at different heights on the walls. Pictures of Boone and, she assumed, his brothers and sister, as well as pictures of a young couple who could only be Boone’s parents. It was startling how much Boone looked like his father, with the same deep-set, emotive eyes, chiseled chin, and tall, broad frame.

  “Shh. Jude’s resting.” A tall, slender woman hurried down the hall. Her bright brown eyes swept over Boone’s face, and she threw her arms around his neck. “Sweetheart. I’m glad you’re here.”

  “How is he?” Boone peered down the hall.

  “He’s a mess, but he wants to get help.” His mother touched his cheek. “You look so much like your father with that scruffy face.” She turned at the same time Boone reached for Trish’s hand. His mother’s brows knitted, and her eyes fell to their joined hands, turning her confusion to an eager smile.

  “Trish, this is my mom, Raine Rekyrts. Mom, this is Trish Ryder, my girlfriend.”

  “It’s nice to meet you,” Trish said.

  Raine covered her mouth, hiding her pretty smile, and whispered, “Girlfriend?” She glanced at Boone with delight and disbelief in her eyes and opened her arms to embrace Trish. “Forgive me for acting surprised. He’s been rattling on and on about how talented you are since the day you started filming together and how excited he was to work with you, but I had no idea you two were dating.”

  Trish soaked in the unexpected compliment.

  “I should have told you, but life’s been crazy lately.” Boone kissed Trish’s cheek and pointed down the hall. “Will you two be okay if I go see Jude?”

  “Of course. Go.” Raine took Trish’s arm as Boone disappeared down the hall. “The kitchen is this way. Chocolate, tea, and gossip are on tap. Okay?”

  Trish laughed, instantly liking his mother’s warm and open personality. “Sounds perfect to me. Do you think Jude’s okay?”

  “He is now that Boone’s here.” Raine set a teakettle on the stove. “Boone will know what to do.”

  He always seemed to know what to do when it came to everyone else. He was everyone else’s anchor, and Trish was glad she was there to be his.

  Candid family photos hung on the kitchen walls in bold, colorful frames. White cabinets lined two walls, and an old-fashioned wood-burning stove sat in the corner, beside which was a comfy-looking oversized chair for two and an ottoman.

  “My reading nook,” Raine said as she opened the refrigerator and took out a tray of delicious-looking chocolate truffles. “Boone put the stove in for me last winter, and Cage and Mags gave me the reading chair.” She set the chocolates on a plate and put it in the middle of the round kitchen table. “See the scratch in the floor? That’s how you know Lucky tried to help.” She laughed, and even her laughter spoke of the love she had for her children. “He’s so smart with computers and numbers, but I think Boone and Cage got all the talent in the working with their hands department.”

  “Every family has a Lucky. In my family it would probably be my brother Jake. He loves the outdoors, and when he was younger he’d bring home snakes, frogs, lizards.” Trish rolled her eyes and sat at the table. “But he hates anything confining. Sort of like Boone, actually.”

  “My boys definitely have restless souls. Do you come from a big family?”

  “Mm-hm. I have five brothers. I grew up just outside the city. My parents still live there.” She knew she shouldn’t eat chocolate and risk gaining weight this close to filming, but she couldn’t resist. “These look delicious. Thank you for sharing them with me.”

  “I’m happy to.” Raine pulled out a chair and picked up one of the mouthwatering treats. “Mm. These days I don’t sample much of what I make, but who can resist chocolate? I love to cook. When I’m not working with Maggie at her catering company or cleaning at Epson, this is what I do. Well, I either cook or read. Or both. Usually both, actually.” She took a bite of the truffle.

  “That explains Boone’s love of cooking.”

  “I think it had less to do with me and more to do with his father. It was their thing, making weekend breakfast feasts. We never had much, but we always had big weekend breakfasts, and half the time Boone’s friends would join us.” She looked up at a picture of a young Boone and his father hanging near the light switch. “That’s Boone and Jerry. Boone used to tag along with his father after work and help him fix things around the house.”

  “You must miss him very much.”

  “Not a day goes by that I don’t miss him. But he’s still here, in these walls, in my children.” Her expression warmed. “Boone reminds me of him, protective and confident. Like he was made for taking care of people. That’s how his father was, too. My everyday hero. He was helping our elderly neighbor, Mrs. Carther, across the street when he was hit by a drunk driver.” Her eyes glazed over. “But I don’t want to talk about that.”

  “I’m so sorry about your husband. And I love hearing about him, and Boone, and your family.”

  Raine folded her arms on the table and leaned closer to Trish. Her hair tumbled over her shoulders. “You must be a family girl yourself for Boone to have opened up to you. He guards his heart like he guards his friends.” She pressed her hand to her chest and swallowed hard. “Sorry. I should know better than to eat chocolate this late at night. It gets me every time.”

  “You sure you’re okay?”

  She waved a hand. “Of course. It’s my body’s way of telling me to cut back on sweets. Tell me about your family.”

  “We’re really close, but I’m also pushy, which would probably be the more accurate reason Boone opened up to me. I kind of didn’t give him an option not to.”

  His mother laughed. “You are exactly what he needed.”

  Trish hoped that was true. Being with his mother, in the house where he grew up, Trish felt insulated from the scarier streets they’d driven by earlier. The sense of family and love here was as rich and alive as it was in her family’s homes. No wonder Boone didn’t want to forget where he came from, and no wonder his mother never wanted to leave.

  “I want to know all about you two,” Raine whispered, as if they were best friends. “He’s never brought a girlfriend home. Not even as
a teenager. When most boys were sneaking their girlfriends into their bedrooms, Boone was watching over Honor, or playing music with Jude, or making sure I was okay.” She shook her head like she could hardly believe the way her son had spent his youth.

  The front door opened and an older man with thick dark hair and kind dark eyes waved as he strode across the floor.

  Raine rose to her feet. “That’s Harvey Bauer, Boone’s agent, and our family’s godsend.”

  “Hi, Raine.” Harvey hugged Raine. Then he offered a hand to Trish. “Trish, I’m Harvey Bauer. Boone called a little while ago and said you were here. It’s nice to finally meet you. I hope he’s not driving you crazy out at that farmhouse.”

  “He’s making me crazy, but not in a bad way,” she said with a smile. “He’s actually doing an incredible job with the role. He’s really turned a corner.”

  Harvey smiled. “No doubt that was all thanks to you. I know it’s important to him to do a good job. He respects your acting abilities tremendously.”

  Another unexpected jewel for Trish to tuck away.

  Harvey eyed the chocolates. “I see you’ve been busy.”

  “Go ahead, but don’t tell Victory I saw you take them.” Raine looked at Trish. “His wife is trying to keep his cholesterol down, but I know better than to come between Harvey Bauer and his chocolates.”

  Boone came into the kitchen a few minutes later and apologized for taking so long. He and Harvey embraced and spoke quietly about Jude. Then they collected Jude, and Boone helped Harvey get him in the car. When Boone returned to the house, he dropped the bag of Sparky’s supplies on the kitchen table and carried him directly to Trish. Trish nuzzled the kitty and kissed his fuzzy little head.

  “A kitten!” His mother rifled through the bag and put a dish of food and water on the floor, then snuck the kitty from Trish’s arms like he was a tiny baby, leaving her arms free to hold Boone.

 
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