Chased by love love in b.., p.19
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       Chased by Love (Love in Bloom: The Ryders): Trish Ryder, p.19

           Melissa Foster
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  “Chuck wanted press,” Trish reminded him.

  Camera flashes lit up like fireworks as Boone and Trish stepped from the car.

  “Boone! Trish! Over here,” a blond reporter yelled, causing a number of other reporters to gather around, taking pictures and peppering them with questions.

  Boone kept a hand on Trish’s lower back and eagle eyes on the crowd. He wanted to wrap Trish in his arms and shelter her from the lustful stares and handsy guys pushing against the velvet ropes they used for crowd control. But they’d agreed not to flaunt their relationship, which meant he couldn’t do a damn thing other than cast a few harsh stares and stay appropriately close. After dealing with gossip for days on end, he was about done with the fine line they’d drawn between their professional life and their personal life. Jared was riding his last nerve, making innuendos that were clearly meant to undermine their relationship. But Boone respected Trish too much to make a statement without her approval.

  “Boone! How do you like acting?” a balding reporter asked.

  Boone flashed a smile and slipped into his rocker persona. “It’s cool, dude. Difficult for sure, but awesome to work with the stunning and talented Trish Ryder.”

  Trish turned a warm gaze on him as she stepped forward, surrounded by eager fans and media.

  “Trish, what’s it like working with Boone?” the reporter asked.

  “He’s incredible to work with. Very intuitive and creative.” She rose to the occasion full of grace and professionalism, and Boone couldn’t take his eyes off of her. “I can’t wait for fans to see Rick and Delia’s story. Boone really brings it to life.”

  In the car, Trish had told him how nervous she was, but she impressively didn’t miss a beat. She held her chin up high, kept perfect eye contact, and the things that rolled off her tongue pulled at his heartstrings.

  A female reporter thrust a microphone toward Trish. “What’s next for you?”

  She smiled brightly. “I’m not sure. I might take a little time off to enjoy myself before my next film. Visit with my family and friends.”

  The fans erupted with dismay, and all Boone could think about was how he couldn’t wait to spend that time with her.

  Trish laughed and said to the crowd, “Okay, maybe just a week!”

  The crowd cheered.

  “And you, Boone? What’s next? When’s the next Strykeforce tour?”

  Trish looked up at him with a question in her beautiful eyes. He and the band had been talking about doing a tour next year, which would require months of preparation. At the time his decision had been dependent upon a number of factors, most recently, Jude’s addiction. Now, he realized, his decision would be most greatly impacted by his relationship with Trish, their schedules, and how they, as a couple, wanted to live their lives.

  He pressed his hand more firmly on Trish’s back, hoping she’d read his silent message of wanting her input. “We’ll announce it as soon as we have a firm date.”

  They answered a number of other questions and then signed autographs. The excited fans encroached, their arms reaching over the velvet ropes, separating Trish and Boone. The beefy guards watched on, shoving a hand between the fans and Trish when needed, and Boone tried to keep an eye as well, but in the flurry of signing autographs among screams and waving hands, and the crowd pushing forward, he could only catch glimpses of her. A young woman tore her shirt open and thrust her lace-covered breasts forward. Boone was used to full frontals, though she was wearing a bra. He signed her chest, but not without a wave of guilt passing through him. He turned and caught a glimpse of Trish rolling her eyes before she ducked into the restaurant.

  He nodded to the security guard, indicating he was done, and followed her in. The restaurant had rustic charm, with barn-wood walls and faux-candle chandeliers. The scent of starchy foods, grilled steak, and comfort hung in the air, which Boone preferred to the snooty smell of overpriced restaurants where customers paid for taking up space rather than good food. That was the Bronx boy in him. Anyone with money could take up space, but it took a great deal of care to cook a meal that tasted like his mother had cooked it.

  “You okay?” he whispered in Trish’s ear.

  “Of course, but we should have a little chat about signing body parts.” She laced her fingers with his, which surprised and pleased him, given that they were not supposed to be flaunting their relationship. “I’m thinking mine are probably enough.”

  He was glad to see she handled jealousy as gracefully as she handled the media, and he added that to the long list of things he loved about her.

  “Agreed. I’m sorry. I was just playing the part.” He thought back to the Rum Hummer and the way Trish had acted out of jealousy when he’d signed the waitress’s shirt. Things were different then. Now we’re a couple.

  The hostess appeared, and Trish released his hand. His stomach plummeted like a little boy who’d lost his baseball. As they followed the hostess to the private dining room, Trish flashed the warm, sexy smile he’d noticed she shared only with him and whispered, “You can make it up to me later,” taking away a modicum of the sting of her releasing his hand.

  Dinner was even better than the aroma promised. The conversation was light, and mostly about the movie. Besides a few sideways glances, the gossipers among the crew had wisely kept their comments to themselves. Boone sat beside Trish, holding hands under the table. He wanted to drape an arm around her, but things were going smoothly and he wasn’t about to rock the boat.

  After dinner everyone hung around for drinks, milling about in the private dining room making small talk.

  Chuck raised his glass and cleared his throat, quieting the din of the group. “I’d like to take a moment to thank each and every one of you. It takes a grand effort to make a movie, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the progress we’ve made so far.”

  He shifted his gaze to Trish and Boone, and Boone squeezed Trish’s hand. He was so proud of her. She’d pushed past the discomfort and frustration of the gossip and she was back to acting even better than ever. She was so believable as Delia, he was starting to get nervous about their pivotal warehouse scene. Now more than ever he didn’t want to mess that up for her.

  “Trish, Boone,” Chuck said with a wry smile. “Ten days in Hurricane, West Virginia, has done wonders for you two. I’m considering sending all of my starring actors away together before filming.”

  There was a wave of appreciative laughter. Boone tried to ignore the hushed whispers that came on the heels of the laughter, but when Jared scoffed, Boone couldn’t resist sending him a look he knew clearly relayed, Careful, asshole.

  Chuck lifted his glass higher and said, “Let’s take Rick and Delia to the Oscars!”

  Everyone cheered.

  Boone clinked glasses with Trish’s and said for her ears only, “You’ve got this, beautiful.”

  Chuck joined them a moment later. “Boone, would you mind if I swept your leading lady away for a moment?”

  “Not at all, and thank you for the compliment earlier.”

  Chuck patted his shoulder. “You two deserved it.” He guided Trish to a quiet corner of the room.

  Jared sidled up to Boone with a drink in his hand and a challenging glint in his eyes. “She deserves an Oscar for most of her performances.”

  “Agreed.” Boone tried not to hit him with an icy stare, but he feared he failed.

  “I’ve worked with Trish quite a few times, and she’s never had issues like she has recently.” Jared sipped his drink, eyeing Boone snobbishly. “One can only assume the time alone with you didn’t do quite as much good as it did harm.”

  Suppressing the urge to tell the asshole where he could take his opinion, Boone curled his fingers tightly around his glass. “That so?”

  Jared shrugged. “What can I say? It kills me to see someone as beautiful as Trish with someone as emotionally ill equipped as you.”

  Boone stepped closer, his voice dead calm, his stare lethal. “Do you believe
everything you read?”

  “I’m her friend. I’m just watching out for her.” He glanced at Trish across the room. “She’s a fine piece of ass. She deserves better.”

  Boone set his drink on the table, buying himself a moment to regain control of the urge to throw the asshole against the wall. He closed the gap between them, and Jared took a step back. Boone took great pleasure in his smirk morphing to fear.

  “Well, pretty boy. You’re obviously as bad at being a friend as you are at reading people. Friends don’t talk shit behind their friends’ backs, and they don’t refer to each other as a ‘fine piece of ass.’” He stepped even closer, his chest brushing against Jared’s. “And a real friend would know Trish is far more than a fine piece of ass. It doesn’t take a genius to see she’s smart and strong and has more talent and couth in her pinky than you will ever possess. And as far as what I am or am not equipped to handle, you’re not nearly enough man to make that determination.”

  He reached up and patted Jared’s cheek, smiling with his mouth but leaving no room for misunderstanding in his steely gaze. “The shit you’re pulling stops here and now. And I assure you, I’m well equipped to deal with pretty boys like you.”

  He turned and found the whole room had gone silent. All eyes were on him.

  Chapter Twenty

  THE WALLS PRESSED in on Trish. Chuck had just finished telling her how proud he was of her and how thankful he was that she’d agreed to help Boone. He’d said Boone had turned his acting around and proven to be as talented and capable as Trish had indicated he could be. He’d ended that brief conversation with, Pay no attention to the nonsense on set. If you’re happy, that is all that matters, and it’s obvious that you two have a deep connection that goes well beyond acting.

  What was Chuck thinking now? She’d only caught the tail end of what Boone had said to Jared, but from the wide-eyed looks of everyone else in the room, it appeared she hadn’t been the only one. The shit you’re pulling on the set stops here and now. And I assure you, I’m well equipped to deal with pretty boys like you. Lord, she’d never seen anything hotter than calm and domineering Boone standing up for her. Though she was certain he’d probably made things worse, she couldn’t help feeling proud and even more in love with him.

  Boone draped an arm around her shoulder and flashed a smile that looked as relieved as it did confident.

  “Well.” He sighed and said to the leering crowd, “That was unexpected.”

  “What just happened?” Trish whispered through a feigned smile.

  His eyes sailed over the room, and then he turned an apologetic gaze to her.

  “Sorry, beautiful. I think I mentioned I’m not very good at pretending, but perhaps I failed to mention I’m also not very good at ignoring a direct confrontation that involves us.” He looked out at the others and flashed a proud smile. “That’s right, folks. Trish and I are a couple, and we’ve had our fill of the rumor mill, so from now on, if you have something to say about my past or about Trish dating a guy who’s not worthy, please come see me.”

  Oh. My. God.

  He crossed the room to where Chuck stood, bringing Trish along with him.

  “Chuck, I’m sorry to have disrupted this wonderful event, but a man can only take so much before he’s got to stand up for the woman he cares about. I can assure you, as far as my relationship with Trish goes, it won’t interfere with filming.”

  Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.

  “Don’t worry about me. This kind of stuff happens all the time.” Chuck finished his drink and set his glass on the table. “I’m just wondering what took you so long.”

  The air left Trish’s lungs in a rush of relief. She heard the others beginning to fan out and mingle again, relieving a little more of her tension.

  “These people need to have something to talk about.” Chuck smiled at Trish. “You’re not used to being the center of it, though, are you?”

  “Not at all. I’m sorry, Chuck. We didn’t mean to cause trouble.”

  “As I said, I don’t have any issues with the two of you. You make a hell of a team on set. Keep that up and we’ll have no issues.”

  Boone lowered his voice and said, “I’m not as bad as the press makes me out to be.”

  Chuck laughed. “Most people aren’t.” He glanced around the room. “Some of these guys would believe in unicorns if they were in the rag magazines.”

  As Chuck walked away, Boone wrapped his arms around Trish’s waist and touched his forehead to hers. “I’m sorry, baby,” he whispered. “I know we said we would be careful, but it turns out I’m not as strong as I thought I was.”

  She melted into his arms, feeling like the weight of the world had been lifted from her shoulders. “You’re ten times stronger. The girly girl in me loves what you did.”

  He cocked a brow. “Really?”

  “It was hot.” She trapped her lower lip between her teeth and smiled up at him.

  “What do you say we get out of here and take a walk?”

  “A walk? What about the press?”

  “What better way to set everyone straight than to start with a little press?”

  “You realize we’ll be in every gossip magazine tomorrow.”

  “Would you rather not? I’m cool either way. We can go back to the house and take a walk around the fields, if you’d rather. I just thought it might be nice to spend an hour or two like a semi-normal couple.”

  She wanted that more than she realized. “I haven’t told Shea, my PR rep, about us yet. I should text her. Don’t you want to alert your PR team?”

  Boone guided her away from the others to give them a little more privacy.

  “I’m done manipulating my image. But go ahead and text her. We have plenty of time.” He reached into his pocket for her phone.

  Her stomach churned nervously. She should reach out to Shea, but what did that say about Trish? Wouldn’t that convey the very clear message that she worried more about what people thought of Boone than what she thought of him?

  “No,” she said. “Let’s just be ourselves and see what happens.”

  His brows knitted. “You sure? If the gossip around the set was any indication, the media is likely to stir up more of the same. Shea could protect you from some of that, or at least be prepared for damage control.”

  “You’re right. She deserves a heads-up. I’ll text her and tell her what to expect, but I’m going to tell her not to issue any statements. I want those to come from me. And, Boone, I want you to know, I care about what we think of each other above all else. I’m sure you know that, but I wanted to say it so you had no doubts.”

  “I know. Don’t worry about me. I read everything I need to know in those beautiful eyes of yours.” He gave her a chaste kiss and handed her the phone.

  She sent off a quick text to Shea and at the last second she added her agent as well, and sent it to both of them.

  You may have already heard from Fi that I’m dating Boone Stryker. He’s not what the press thinks, so don’t freak out. But we’re about to be caught in the tabloids, and I didn’t want to blindside you. Please don’t issue any statements without my consent. Thanks!

  Boone reached for the phone, and she hesitated. “This is going to seem weird, but do you mind if I also text my family?”

  A warm smile spread across his face. “Baby, they’re more important than anyone else.”

  “Thank you.” She looked around the room, and sadness rolled in. “It’s a shame that so many people don’t know what an amazing man you are.”

  “All that matters is that you and your family know,” he assured her.

  God, I love you. She bit back the confession, and as she sent her family a group text strikingly similar to the previous message, the confession lingered.

  I wanted to let you guys know I’m dating Boone Stryker. He’s not what the press thinks, so don’t freak out. We’ll probably be in the tabloids tomorrow, and I didn’t want to blindside any of you. I promise you
ll love him! Love you all!

  She powered off the phone and handed it to Boone.

  He looked at the dark screen. “You sure you want it off after sending those loaded messages?”

  “That’s why I want it off.”

  They made their way around the room, saying goodbye.

  “You guys are cute together,” Zoe said to them. “I’m sorry I asked what I did that first day we arrived, Trish.” She glanced up at Boone. “It was nothing personal, Boone. I’ve worked with Trish many times, and her co-stars are always trying to get her attention, which means you’re either packing a monster in your drawers or you’re a really special guy.”

  “Zoe!” Trish gaped.

  Boone and Zoe both laughed.

  “I’m kidding!” Zoe pushed her blond hair over her shoulder and said, “If that’s all you were interested in, you would have taken Vin Diesel up on his offer.”

  Trish shook her head and said to Boone, “There was no offer. Just a little flirtation.”

  He laughed. “I’m not worried, baby. You’re with me, not him.”

  “I’m happy for you guys,” Zoe added. “And half the people here who are gossiping are protective of Trish. The other half just love to gossip. You’ll be yesterday’s news soon enough.”

  Trish hugged her. “Thank you, Zoe.”

  “Thanks, Zoe. I appreciate your support.” Boone lowered his voice and said, “Just for the record, aka rumor mill, Vin Diesel has nothing on me.”

  “Oh my God. You’re such a guy.” Trish dragged him away and was surprised when he extended a hand to Jared.

  “See you on set tomorrow?” Boone said with an unexpectedly kind smile.

  Jared gave one curt nod and shook his hand.

  As they made their way through the restaurant toward the entrance, she asked, “What did Jared say to you, anyway?”

  Boone’s jaw tightened. “Nothing worth mentioning.”

  “Obviously it was something rude. So why were you so nice to him just now?” She waved to a little girl watching them walk by. Boone waved, too, which melted her heart a little more.

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