Chased by love love in b.., p.25
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       Chased by Love (Love in Bloom: The Ryders): Trish Ryder, p.25

           Melissa Foster
 
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  “Okay, beautiful.” Boone slid his gaze to Duke. “I understand I get to thank you for her pushiness.”

  Duke shrugged. “I can’t even begin to deny it.”

  Trish pressed her hand to Boone’s cheek and guided his eyes back to hers.

  “Now, about your cryptic note-writing skills...”

  **

  LATER THAT EVENING, after Duke left and Raine was discharged from the hospital, they tried to relax before Trish had to pick up Sparky from Cash and Siena in the city and then catch her flight back to West Virginia. Raine’s tests revealed a severe case of esophagitis, caused by acid reflux. The doctor assured them that with proper diet and medication, Raine would heal.

  “Esophagitis,” Raine said for the third time in the last hour. “I still can’t get over how inflammation of the esophagus can cause so much pain. I really thought I was having a heart attack. I feel so bad for taking Trish away from filming, and, Cage, you missed your radio interview.”

  “Don’t be silly,” Trish said. “I’m just happy you’re okay.”

  “You did me a favor.” Cage got up and hugged Raine. “I hate radio interviews.”

  Boone walked in from the kitchen and sat down beside Trish. “Mom, I put your medicine on the counter, along with the directions the doctor gave us. I also printed out a few articles on esophagitis and bookmarked a few recipe sites that might help with the reflux.”

  “Thank you, Boone.” Raine’s eyes moved over each of the children’s faces. “What are you not telling me?”

  Boone and his siblings exchanged looks Trish couldn’t read.

  “Boone gave me a guy’s number for a computer job,” Lucky said. “I’m going to call him tomorrow.”

  “Really?” Raine’s eyes widened with delight. “That’s wonderful.”

  “Yeah, I figure it’s time.” Lucky glanced at Boone, who smiled appreciatively.

  “And I’m going to make you lots of reflux-friendly foods and freeze them,” Mags said. “I took tomorrow off so I can clean out your fridge from all those chocolate truffles you’ve been hoarding.”

  A knock sounded at the door, and Boone got up to answer it. Officer Payne stood on the steps in a pair of jeans and a crisp white button-down shirt, holding a bouquet of flowers.

  “Officer Payne,” Boone said in a much friendlier tone than he had spoken to him the last time he was there. “So nice to see you.”

  “Hi. I heard your mom was in the hospital and thought I’d stop by and see how she was doing.” He smiled as he stepped inside, and his eyes went straight to Raine.

  “Patrick,” she said a little breathlessly.

  Trish recognized the look of attraction. Raine was looking at Patrick the same way Trish had first looked at Boone.

  “Hi, Raine.” He knelt beside the couch where she sat and handed her the flowers. “I brought these for you. Are you feeling okay?”

  “Yes. They’re beautiful. How did you know I was in the hospital?” she asked.

  “Oh. I…” Patrick looked at Boone, and Trish swore she saw Boone shake his head. “I heard the 911 call come through on the police scanner, but I was on duty and couldn’t get away until now.”

  “It’s nice of you to come by.” Boone walked behind Cage and Lucky and discreetly touched their shoulders and cocked his head toward the door. Each of his siblings began murmuring about needing to be somewhere.

  “We’d better pick up Sparky and get to the airport,” Boone said to Trish.

  She started to protest but quickly realized Boone had set up the whole thing. Rising to her feet, she whispered, “You did this for her?”

  He gathered her in his arms and pressed his cheek to hers. His hot breath sent shivers down her spine as he whispered, “My smart girlfriend taught me that we can’t have a future without first putting our pasts to rest.”

  Her heart swelled with love. But she also knew her man well enough to realize how difficult this must be for him. “You sure you’re okay leaving? I can go back by myself and we can connect in LA after I’m done filming if you want to be here for your mom.”

  She watched his expression warm as he looked at his mother chatting quietly with Patrick. Raine was glowing, despite her ordeal. Patrick turned and winked at Boone. A look of gratitude passed between the two men.

  Boone gazed down at Trish and said, “I think she’s in good hands. Besides, speaking of LA, I was thinking you should move in with me.”

  Trish’s voice caught in her throat and her body flooded with love. “I should…Oh my gosh, Boone? Are you serious?”

  “I told you I suck at pretending.” He arched a brow.

  He looked cocky and sexy and so in love she wanted to climb into his arms and kiss him for hours. “That’s one of my favorite things about you, but I don’t even know where you live. I’ve never been to your house. I don’t even know what your life is like off set.”

  “Then I should move in with you,” he said casually. “Because I don’t care what your house is like. I’d live in a hovel with you. And as for my life, it’ll be whatever we want it to be. If we want to tour, we’ll tour. If we want to be together while you’re on location, we’ll do that. If we want to give up everything and travel around the world for two years, I’m all in.”

  “Boone.” Her breath left her lungs.

  “Baby, we’ve been living together for weeks. You know what I’m like, and that’s all that matters. Or is it too much too fast? Tsk. I told you I’d screw up.”

  Cage brushed by them and snickered. “He’s really good at screwing up.”

  “He didn’t screw up,” she said to Cage.

  “Hey, I’m the screwup,” Lucky said to Cage. “He’s the overprotective one.”

  “You’re both fools,” Mags teased.

  Trish smiled at Boone and said, “I have a crazy idea.”

  “The last time you had a crazy idea, you pretended to pass out at a creek party and told strangers you were pregnant.”

  “She did?” Mags perked up. “I want to hear this.”

  “Hold on. I think we’re negotiating,” Boone said.

  “How about if after I’m done filming we spend time at your place,” Trish suggested. “Then we spend time at my place, and we can decide where we want to call home afterward?”

  “Home?” Boone tugged her in closer, his eyes full of love, his heart beating sure and steady against her own. “Home is wherever you are, beautiful.”

  “You’re moving in together?” Mags asked so loudly everyone went silent.

  Raine squealed. “You are? Oh my gosh. I knew it the minute I saw the way you looked at each other!”

  “Who’s the pushy one now?” Trish poked Boone in his ribs. “What if I’d said no?”

  “You still haven’t said yes,” he whispered.

  “Yes, you goofball.”

  Boone scooped her into his arms and twirled her around. “I’ll live anywhere you want. Your place. Mine. Wherever you want.”

  “I usually split my time between New York and LA.”

  “I will, too,” he offered.

  “I have a million pairs of shoes and two walk-in closets.”

  “You can have my closet.”

  “I eat like a pig. We’re talking big grocery bills,” she teased. “Huge. Enormous.”

  “Good thing I like to cook.”

  “How do you feel about weddings?” she asked.

  “Well, we are already pregnant.” He called over his shoulder to his family, “Inside joke. Not really.”

  “Not ours! Be my date for Duke and Gabby’s wedding.”

  His expression turned serious again. “I had to ask you to move in with me to be invited?”

  “No! I just remembered. There’s been so much going on, it slipped my mind.”

  “In that case, I’d be honored,” he said with a wide grin, still holding her inches above the floor. “And for the record, I love weddings. I believe in weddings. One day I want a wedding. Our wedding.”

  His l
ips came down over hers, and as his family showered them with excitement, she fell even deeper in love with him.

  “I don’t really care where we live either,” Trish said as he lowered her feet to the floor. “I just didn’t want to seem easy.”

  “Baby.” He laughed. “I promise you that’s one thing I’ll never accuse you of.”

  Epilogue

  STRINGS OF WHITE lights stretched from one end of the bluff to the other, sparkling like a canopy of diamonds against the night sky and illuminating Duke and Gabriella’s wedding reception. Duke and Gabriella had walked down an aisle lined with hurricane candles and said their vows in a beautiful gazebo Blue had made just for their special moment. The whole ceremony had a magical feel that carried over to the reception.

  Dozens of round tables adorned with white tablecloths and colorful floral centerpieces dotted the lawn. Enormous vases of flowers were placed around large buffet tables and around the dance floor, where Duke and Gabriella were dancing cheek to cheek. They looked happier than Trish had ever seen them. Duke was handsome in his charcoal-gray tuxedo, holding his new bride. Gabriella’s mother and aunts had made her the perfect island wedding gown. The satin and lace backless dress had spaghetti straps and a layer of chiffon over just-above-the-knee satin, giving her full-length gown glamour without the restrictions of confining layers. Behind them were streams of vertical lights hung from decorative frames, rippling like waterfalls in the breeze sweeping up the bluff. At the far end of the property, a lighthouse stood sentinel. Its light shimmered off the inky water like a glamorous carpet leading to Elpitha Island. Duke had gone all out for the wedding, and Trish had never seen anything so beautiful.

  She gazed out at the water, her eyes catching on the two boats by the docks, which had been loitering for hours, and guilt pressed in on her. With all of the Oscar buzz about their performance, she and Boone had been barraged by press and paparazzi for weeks. Lately she’d realized how her priorities had shifted. She and Boone had spent time at each other’s homes and had finally decided to sell both and buy one together—farther away from the masses. They’d purchased the house in Hurricane under Boone’s real name and had been living there to escape the craziness of Hollywood. The community had come together and helped them live under the radar by not making a fuss when they were out. Luckily, West Virginia didn’t have enough going on to deem worthy of the media shenanigans that went on in Los Angeles. They did, however, have to beef up security for the wedding to keep the press from docking and coming onto the island.

  Trish looked down at Cash and Siena’s baby in her arms, Charlotte Rose—Coco—and kissed her forehead, inhaling her sweet baby scent. Across the lawn Lizzie was holding Coco’s twin brother, Seth Samuel, named for the man Cash hadn’t been able to save in a fire. They were only two months old and already looked so much like their parents Trish knew her brother and sister-in-law were in for trouble when these two became teenagers. They were the most curious of babies, too. When they were lying next to each other, Seth clung to Coco as if she were his to protect. Such a Ryder man already.

  “I don’t know why the press finds me and Boone so interesting when there are so many more interesting things to give attention to. Like you and your cutie-pie brother,” she said to Coco. “The press is so silly.”

  “You have been hogging that sweet baby all evening,” her mother said, reaching for Coco.

  Trish turned away with a smile. “I’ll give her to you in a minute.” She kissed the baby again. “Right, Coco? Auntie Trish needs one more second with you before Grandma gobbles you up.”

  “Refusing to give up a baby is the first sign of wanting one,” her mother said.

  “I know,” Trish confided. “My ovaries have been doing a baby dance all evening.” She and Boone had talked about having a big family, and holding Coco made her want to get started right away. The breathtaking wedding had also tugged at her heartstrings.

  Her eyes slid to Boone standing with her father, Gage, Sally, Blue, and Lizzie. Boone lifted his eyes and caught her staring.

  He mouthed, Marry me.

  Her heart nearly stopped. Surely she’d misread his words. She blinked several times and met his gaze again.

  He smiled and mouthed, I love you.

  Oh God. She was losing her mind. Her head was playing tricks on her. It had to be the wedding. Sometimes she wondered if her heart would give out from the sheer depth of love she felt for him. Were hearts capable of loving this hard forever?

  She shifted her eyes to Gage and Sally. They were always together, and Gage’s love for her was palpable. Everything Sally did spoke of her feelings for Gage, but even now there was an invisible line between them. A sliver of space keeping them apart. Trish wondered if Sally’s love for her deceased husband filled that space. On one hand, she hoped that wasn’t the case, because the idea of Gage’s love being unrequited forever was too painful. And at the same time, she knew how full her heart was for Boone and couldn’t imagine ever loving another man.

  “They’re coming over.” Her mother nodded toward Boone and the others heading toward them. “Maybe you should give me the baby now.”

  “Why is that a reason to give up the baby?” Trish kissed Coco one more time and placed her in her mother’s arms. She glanced at Boone, whose eyes were locked on hers, sending familiar sparks through her veins.

  “I’m just freeing up your arms to hold Boone,” her mother said with a wink. “Oh good, here come Duke and Gabby, too. If we could only get Jake to stop lusting over Addy, we could make a family toast.” Addy was Gabriella’s best friend and worked with her at her law practice.

  “They’ve been playing cat and mouse all evening,” Trish said, needing a distraction from her crazy thoughts. “What do you think’s up? Jake’s usually not so coy.” Addy and Jake had met when Gabriella and Duke had first started dating, and their connection was white-hot, but as far as Trish knew, they’d never gotten together.

  “Isn’t it obvious?” her mother asked as the others joined them. “He finally likes someone.”

  “Who’s ‘he’?” Blue asked, holding hands with Lizzie.

  “Jake,” Trish answered. Boone sidled up to her and wound an arm around her waist.

  He pressed his lips just beside her ear and whispered, “Be mine forever.”

  Before she could say anything, he pressed another kiss beside her ear and said, “I love you.”

  “Are you talking about Jake and Addy?” her father asked.

  Had she heard Boone right? She was vaguely aware of the conversation going on around her. She turned and looked at him, and he shrugged.

  “Boone?” she whispered, earning a wide, silent grin.

  “Jake’s been flirting with her all evening,” Lizzie said. “Did you see him when Gabriella’s brothers danced with her?”

  “I did,” Sally said. “He looked like he was going to blow his top.”

  “Jake can be a little possessive.” Her mother shifted the baby in her arms.

  “Jake?” Siena laughed. “All the Ryder men are possessive!”

  Boone kissed Trish and whispered, “I love it when you’re possessive of me. Marry me.”

  She shot her eyes to his and he shrugged again. “What?” she whispered, but he just smiled and kissed her again.

  “If he likes Addy, he’s out of luck,” Gabriella said. “She’s taking off for a few weeks to go trekking in the mountains. I swear she’s so determined to prove her independence, she won’t stop until she’s conquered everything there is to conquer.” Addy was the daughter of a world-renowned fashion designer. She’d broken away from her family after graduating college to get out from under her father’s thumb and prove to herself she could make it on her own.

  “I’m sure Jake would be happy to let her conquer him,” Duke said.

  Gabriella glared at him. “That’s my best friend you’re talking about.”

  “Sorry, babe.” Duke kissed her and whispered something in her ear that made her blush.
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  “What are you going to do without her at your legal practice for that long?” Gage asked.

  Gabriella and Duke exchanged smiles. “Actually,” Duke said, “we’re hoping to start a family right away, and Gabriella wants to cut back on her law practice to take care of our babies.”

  “Really?” Trish hugged Gabriella. “I can’t wait for more nieces and nephews!”

  Boone wrapped his arms around Trish from behind and whispered, “Have my babies.”

  Trish stood stock-still, sure she had heard him right this time—and getting more excited by the second.

  “Coco and Seth need playmates,” Siena said.

  “I can’t believe my baby is in college,” Sally said. “Time goes so fast. I would have loved to have another baby.” She glanced at Gage, and he raised his brows, as if that was a discussion they’d already had.

  “Blue and I want a big family,” Lizzie said.

  “We sure do.” Blue pulled her in closer.

  Boone whispered, “So do we,” in Trish’s ear. She turned in his arms and gazed into his dark eyes.

  “What are you doing?” she whispered.

  “Subliminal messages,” Boone answered.

  “So, Blue,” Gage asked. “When’s the wedding?”

  Trish didn’t know if Blue answered Gage or not. She couldn’t concentrate past her racing heart. She couldn’t see past the beautiful man sinking down to one knee before her, holding her hand in one of his and a diamond ring in the other.

  “Beautiful girl,” he said, drawing tears to her eyes. “You’ve taught me how to be a better man, how to forgive and move forward.”

  Warm tears slid down her cheeks.

  “I want to wake up with you in my arms every day and raise creative, pushy babies, or nerdy babies, or whatever-they-want-to-be babies, and show them how incredible life can be.”

  A sob bubbled out of her lungs, and she lifted a shaky hand to cover her mouth. Boone rose to his feet and took that hand in his.

  “In my head, and in my heart, you’re already mine, but I want to see you walk down the aisle and become my wife. And more than anything in the world, I want to become your husband. I’ll make you proud, baby, and happy. And I promise you, I’ll be the best father to our children. I had a good role model.” His eyes welled with tears as he stepped closer and asked, “Will you marry me, beautiful?”

 
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