Chased by love love in b.., p.23
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       Chased by Love (Love in Bloom: The Ryders): Trish Ryder, p.23

           Melissa Foster
 
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  “I’ve got a place in LA, but I consider the Bronx home.”

  “Cool,” Cash said. “And you said you’re sticking around here until Trish is done filming?”

  “That’s the plan,” Boone answered.

  “But he gets to sleep in tomorrow,” Trish reminded him. “I have to get up at the crack of dawn. I’m filming at four thirty a.m., and I film straight through until four or five in the afternoon. The day after tomorrow we film at four thirty a.m., then I have the afternoon off, and we film at sundown. We have a weird schedule for the next few days because Delia’s character is a night owl.”

  “At least you two will still be together,” Siena said. “That’s what matters.”

  “Remember when Mom used to tell us nothing good happens between midnight and five a.m.?” Gage said, which started a round of Remember when...

  Trish and Boone exchanged a heated glance. Mom was so wrong. Every time he looked at her she felt like she might go up in flames. She was surprised neither of the girls had called her on it yet.

  A jovial-looking man with wire-framed glasses, thick salt-and-pepper hair, and a welcoming smile sidled up to the table. “Howdy, folks. Welcome to the Greenhouse. I’m Eric, the owner, and I’ll be serving you tonight.”

  “Now, that’s service,” Cash said.

  “There’s a barn bash over at Millie Sipher’s place tonight, and what kind of boss would I be if I didn’t let my staff take off for the fun?” Eric said Millie Sipher’s like they knew who she was, and it made him even more charming.

  “Now, that sounds like home,” Gabriella said. “I’m from Elpitha Island, and we were just talking about how it smells so good in here it reminded me of home. My brother owns a restaurant there, and he does the same thing for his staff. It’s rare, meeting a business owner who cares as much about their staff as they do about their business.”

  “In Hurricane, family comes first,” Eric said. “My wife and I visited Elpitha about a decade ago. Sweet little island. I’m going to ask my brother Joe, our executive chef, to cook you up something special. Galaktoboureko?”

  Gabriella’s eyes widened. “I haven’t had that in months.” She looked around the table and explained, “It’s Greek crème brûlée in phyllo, and it’s to die for.” She got up and hugged Eric. “Thank you! I’d go right back into the kitchen and hug your brother if I wasn’t afraid he’d think I was crazy.”

  Everyone laughed as she took her seat.

  “Thank you. You’ve just made my fiancée’s night. Next time you and your wife want a weekend away, you can stay at one of my resorts.” Duke took out his wallet and handed Eric a business card. “Visit that website, pick a location, and tell them Duke and Gabriella sent you.”

  “Thank you, Duke,” Eric said. “My wife will be thrilled, but you know, this is one dessert, and what you’re offering is worth so much more. I’ll comp the whole group. Every time you come here.”

  “No need. It’s our pleasure,” Duke assured him.

  Trish wished Duke had welcomed Boone as graciously as he did strangers, but she knew his abruptness with Boone wasn’t really about Boone. It was about protecting Trish, his not-so-little sister.

  “Have you lived here your whole life?” Trish asked.

  “Good gosh, no,” Eric said with a laugh. “We’re typical West Virginians. When you’re twenty-five, you can’t wait to get away. We headed south and took up residence in Florida to live the good life. Like most people from around here, when we got old enough to sprout some gray, we couldn’t wait to get back home.” He lowered his voice like he was sharing a secret. “Wisdom really does come with age. Turned out the good life was right here waiting for us.”

  They chatted for a while longer. Eric took their drink orders and returned with them a few minutes later.

  Duke eyed Boone’s soda. “You’re not drinking?”

  Trish’s nerves flared at her brother’s nosy question. And off we go…

  “I rarely do,” Boone said.

  Duke and Cash exchanged a curious glance. They’d obviously been influenced by Boone’s reputation.

  “We lost my father to a drunk driver when I was a kid,” Boone explained with a solemn expression. “It’s not that I don’t drink. I have a drink now and then, but when I’m out, I typically go for soda or water.”

  “I’m sorry to hear that,” Duke said sincerely. “That must have been very difficult for you and your family.”

  Trish was surprised Duke didn’t already know that about Boone. He must not have looked into his background as deeply as she’d thought. That pleased her, because it had to mean that he was backing off, at least a little. She wondered if she’d misjudged his surprise visit. Maybe he really was here only to get to know Boone better and he just hadn’t quelled the overprotective, scrutinizing side of himself yet.

  A girl could hope.

  “It was. It is,” Boone admitted. “I’m not sure you ever really get over losing your parents, no matter what age you are when it happens.”

  “Boy, isn’t that the truth.” Gage took a pull of his beer. “My close friend Sally lost her husband when her son was a teenager. It’s been several years and they both are doing well, but sometimes her pain is right there on the surface.”

  Trish patted her brother’s arm, feeling like she’d just been given a glimpse as to why, after years of attraction between Gage and Sally, they still hadn’t gotten together.

  Gage smiled. “Then there are the times when Sally lights up with a happy memory, and it makes her whole world seem brighter. Is it like that for you, Boone?”

  “Yup,” Boone said casually. “So many things can spur a memory, and when it happens it’s like riding a roller coaster in blinding darkness. You never know what to expect.”

  “Maybe that’s why you were so good today in that final scene,” Siena chimed in. “You’ve lost someone you loved, so when you looked at Trish, you felt it all come rushing back. When I model, depending on what the client is going for, I have to pull from memories or images to get into the right frame of mind.”

  Boone’s eyes fell on Trish. “I had no choice this afternoon. When I saw Trish lying there, the words just came.”

  “You were in the zone,” Trish said softly.

  “I’m still in it.” He leaned in and kissed her.

  She felt her cheeks heat up, and Duke cleared his throat.

  Boone shifted his eyes to Duke. “Sorry, Duke, but I’m not going to apologize for kissing your sister.”

  Duke laughed. “No, but I’ll apologize for coming across a little harsh. Look, Boone, I won’t beat around the bush. Let’s just get everything out in the open.”

  “This is so ridiculous, Duke,” Trish said. “When you brought Gabby home, and when Cash met Siena and Blue fell for Lizzie, none of them had to go through inquisitions. We just loved them, because you did. Why can’t you do the same for me?”

  Duke’s face went even more serious, and everyone fell silent.

  Gage leaned closer to Trish and whispered, “I think you failed to mention you were in love with him during our Skype chat.”

  “What?” She looked around the table. Gabriella and Siena flashed wide eyes and wider smiles. Boone looked completely and utterly shocked. “Ohmygod. I said I love you. Oh my God. It just slipped out.”

  A slow smile lifted his luscious lips and crept all the way up to his eyes. Trish trapped her lower lip between her teeth to keep from laughing, crying, kissing him…She heard Siena and Gabriella whispering, but she was too nervous to focus on anything except the man reaching a hand to the nape of her neck and drawing her closer. He smelled like love and lust and everything good in the world, and he was looking at her like she’d just told him he’d won a prize.

  “Baby.” His warm breath whispered over his lips. “I adore you. I’ve been trying to hold back from saying I love you, but it’s been killing me. When I said it in the scene, the words were meant for you. I love you, beautiful girl. I love you so much I ach
e with it.”

  He pressed his lips to hers, and Gabriella and Siena both sighed.

  Boone framed her face with his hands and gazed into her eyes. He was all she saw, all she smelled, all she heard. He was all she needed.

  Duke’s hand landed on Boone’s shoulder and they both turned.

  Her brother smiled down at them, and Boone rose to his feet as Duke said, “She’ll always be my little sister, so you know that thing Jake said to you over Skype? It pretty much says it all.”

  Everyone laughed, and Duke embraced Boone. Trish’s throat thickened.

  “I’m not who the press thinks I am,” Boone assured him.

  Duke took Trish’s hand and helped her to her feet. “It wouldn’t matter if you were,” he said to Boone. “As long as that’s not who you are with our sister.” He smiled at Trish and said, “Can you forgive me for being pushy? You’re right, sis. I have no right to question your choices, and I’m sorry. From now on I’ll think before I act.”

  “Thank you.” Trish soaked in his warm embrace. “But we both know you won’t.”

  Everyone laughed again, and the air around them lightened. The rest of the evening was lighthearted and fun, the way Trish was used to feeling when she was with her family. She and Boone held hands and kissed throughout dinner. Gabriella and the others enjoyed their special dessert. Duke teased Trish about not eating. Wait until she’s not filming, Boone. Hide your fingers at dinnertime, because she eats as much as we do. She told them about Boone’s extravagant breakfasts and teased Boone about needing to find things to make him edgy so she could have them once a week.

  Since Boone’s work on set was done, and Trish had three more days of filming, her family decided to stay for the night and hang out with Boone tomorrow while she worked. It filled her with joy to see Duke let Boone in and to see everyone else accept him so easily. By the time they went their separate ways, it was as if they’d known Boone forever.

  As they pulled up to the farmhouse, Trish said, “Thanks for hanging in there with Duke. He means well, even if he’s…Duke.”

  “He’s cool. Stop worrying so much. You should ask Mags what I’ve put her boyfriends through in the past.”

  “No way were you as aggressive as Duke. Where do you think I learned it from?”

  “Darn,” he said with a laugh. “I knew I forgot to thank him for something.”

  “Boone, I’m sorry I blurted out my feelings like that.” She’d been thinking about the way the words had come without warning. They felt so right, she didn’t regret admitting she loved him, but she worried that he might have felt put on the spot. “I didn’t mean to put you on the spot.”

  He cut the engine and leaned across the console, taking her chin between his finger and thumb, and kissed her. “I love you, baby. I’ve wanted to tell you several times over the last few days, but I fell for you so fast and so hard, I was afraid I might scare you off. I want to be put on the spot as long as that spot is with you.”

  Chapter Twenty-Five

  TRISH REACHED FOR her phone and silenced the alarm. Three forty-five was too early for any sane person to be awake. She yawned and rolled over, reaching for Boone. Her eyes came open at the feel of the empty bed, and she listened for sounds of him in the bathroom, but the only noises came from Sparky purring beside Boone’s pillow, crickets outside, and a gentle breeze floating in through the open window.

  She sat up and listened intently, but the house was silent. She threw on Boone’s shirt from last night and went to his bedroom to see if he was there. Finding it empty, she hurried downstairs, hoping he wasn’t stressing about their declaration of love last night. But the kitchen was empty. Panic bloomed in her chest. She peered out the back door into the darkness, hoping he was sitting on the porch. Her stomach plummeted at the sight of the empty porch. Her pulse raced as she headed for the front door, telling herself to calm down.

  The front door was locked. She pulled it open, and her eyes sailed over the trailers and canopies, to the empty driveway. Goose bumps climbed up her limbs. She searched her mind for something, anything. A comment about him needing to be somewhere? She’d remembered he’d gone to get condoms one morning when she was still sleeping and headed upstairs to shower, thinking he’d probably been unable to sleep and had gone to run an errand.

  At three forty-five.

  He could have.

  Maybe?

  She flipped on her bedroom light and spotted a note on the bedside table. She snagged it and read it. Twice.

  Beautiful, had an emergency. Knew you had to film. I’ll be in touch. Love, B.

  What the heck?

  “Seriously? You couldn’t have woken me up?” she said to the empty room, and picked up her phone to check her messages. None from Boone, although she had messages from Fiona, Shea, and Siena. She called Boone, breathing so hard she felt like she might explode. What kind of emergency? She thought of Jude and Lucky, but surely he would have just written that in the note, wouldn’t he? The call went straight to voicemail. Great.

  “Hey, it’s me. Where are you? What happened? I love you, and I hope you’re okay. Call me.”

  It was almost four and the crew would be there soon. She took a quick shower and dressed, then tried his cell again. The call went to voicemail.

  The front door opened and she ran to the top of the stairs. “Boone?”

  Zoe stared up at her. “You lost your boyfriend?”

  She rolled her eyes and tried to hide her frustration and worries. “No. He had to take care of something. I’ll be right down.”

  “Better hurry. You know how Chuck is about getting the perfect lighting,” Zoe called after her.

  Yeah. Tell me something I don’t know. She didn’t usually bring her phone on set, but today it would take an act of God to stop her. She left it on silent and checked it between every scene. She was so worried about what was going on with Boone she could hardly concentrate, but thankfully her rote acting skills took over.

  Her brothers and the girls showed up around nine, and she remembered they were supposed to spend the day with Boone. After she wrapped her scene, she asked Duke if any of them had heard from Boone.

  “No. Why?” Duke asked.

  “He was gone when I got up. He left a note that there was an emergency he had to take care of, but I haven’t heard from him.” She spotted Jared coming her way and cringed. He was the last person she wanted to talk to right now.

  “Trish,” Jared said with a hint of arrogance.

  “Hey, Jared.” Please go away. Siena must have noticed her discomfort, because she took up residence beside her, and like birds of a feather, her family gathered around.

  “Guess Boone blew out of here first chance he got, huh?” Jared looked down at his phone. “Sorry he screwed you like that.”

  “Hey,” Duke said, stepping between them. “What’s your problem?”

  Jared held up his hands in surrender. “I’ve got no problem, but your sister might.”

  He thrust his phone toward Trish, showing her an image of Boone with an arm around a gorgeous brunette on Perez Hilton’s website, with the caption Looks Like Stryker’s Done Acting. Trish’s heart stopped cold.

  “That doesn’t mean a damn thing,” Siena said, putting an arm around Trish. “You know that, right? I saw the way he looked at you last night. There’s no way those pictures are real. Trust me, if anyone knows how to read fake pics, it’s me.”

  “The press will try to break you up now that they know you’re a couple,” Cash added. “We’ve seen it happen to Siena’s friends.”

  Duke ripped the phone from Jared’s hands, ignoring his protests. His eyes swept over the article and he pushed it into Jared’s chest. “This is bullshit. Get out of here.”

  Gage took Trish by the arm and guided her away from Jared. Disconcerting thoughts raced through her mind. She didn’t believe Boone was with anyone else, but that didn’t stop jealousy from piercing her heart.

  “Trish, what the hell was that all ab
out?” Duke asked angrily.

  “Jared’s an ass. He’s been talking crap about me and Boone since we first started filming, and Boone set him straight. Boone uses the press for distractions. But he said he was done with that. You can’t say anything to anyone about his using the press for distractions. It’s important to keep his family out of the limelight.”

  “Then that’s what this has to be. A distraction,” Gabriella said.

  “He’s got to be with Jude or his mother. Or maybe his brother Lucky.” Her mind raced, and the words tumbled out fast. “If he is, he needs me.” She scrolled through her contacts, looking for Maggie’s number.

  “Trish,” Duke said gently. “Wouldn’t he have told you if it was a family emergency?”

  “You don’t know Boone. He’s used to dealing with everything on his own. When his friend was in trouble, he didn’t even stop to talk about it. He just packed up his stuff and was ready to race out of here.” She remembered his surprise when she wanted to go with him. “His note,” she said absently. “It was cryptic, but for Boone, it was a huge deal, even if it seems minuscule to us. He doesn’t slow down when his friends are in trouble. He goes.”

  “Okay, I get it.” Duke took out his phone.

  “Who are you calling?” Trish asked, raising her phone to her ear as she called Maggie.

  “My assistant. I’m going to have her call all the hospitals around the Bronx and see if he’s there.”

  “Rekyrts, that’s his mother’s name.” Maggie answered the phone, and Trish held up a finger to Duke. “Mags? It’s Trish. Have you heard from Boone?”

  “Yes, he’s here at the hospital with us.”

  Trish grabbed hold of Duke’s arm. “What happened?”

  “Our mom had chest pains again,” Maggie explained. “She was rushed in in the middle of the night. Didn’t he tell you? He said he left a note. We can’t use cell phones in the hospital. I’m surprised you caught me. I was just coming outside to call the school and let them know she wouldn’t be in tonight to clean. Boone and our brothers are in with her now.” She told Trish which hospital they’d taken her to and she sounded just as frazzled as Trish would expect her to.

 
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