Chased by love love in b.., p.3
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       Chased by Love (Love in Bloom: The Ryders): Trish Ryder, p.3

           Melissa Foster
 
“How?” Her eyes widened. “First you don’t show up for the preproduction meeting, and you don’t even have the courtesy to warn anyone so we can reschedule. Then you show up late on not only the first day of filming, but several other times, too. And you obviously haven’t studied your lines. It’s completely unprofessional. I mean, I know No Strings isn’t exactly a high-budget film, but it’s disrespectful to everyone when you treat it like it doesn’t matter.”

  He stepped closer, cataloging the quickening of her breathing and the spark of heat in her eyes that had nothing to do with anger. It was that spark that had his brain sliding down a slippery slope it hadn’t slid down in far too long—and it was the heat brewing inside him that had him scrambling back to reality. There was no room in his life for another complication, and though he was used to the less-than-stellar reputation that came along with being a rock star—self-centered, driven by booze and sex, and light on intelligence—he didn’t take her assumption lightly.

  “Is that what you think? That this film doesn’t matter to me? Just because I’m not the actor you hoped I’d be?” All of the tension from the last few weeks came tumbling forward and his words came out harsher than he’d intended.

  A look of contemplation washed over her face.

  “Taking on this role must have been a step down for an A-lister like you,” he said with a serious tone. “Did someone force you to take a bum deal? To work with an unprofessional ass like me?”

  “Of course not. I wanted this role. I wanted to work with you.” She searched his eyes, determination and annoyance sailing through hers. A second later those emotions were pushed aside and replaced with desire so raw it drew Boone a step closer. Their chests grazed, and they both swallowed hard.

  “Good to know.” He’d known passion and he’d known lust, but the inferno raging between them had a dangerous draw, one that was proving hard to resist.

  As if she’d read his thoughts, or caught herself reacting to him like a woman rather than a pissed-off actress, she narrowed her eyes and lifted her chin defiantly. “Because of you, we’re stuck together for ten days in Bumfuck, West Virginia. You cannot screw this up.”

  “No shit, Trish. It was never my plan to screw it up,” he said honestly. “I appreciate your offer to help me learn how to do this. We both know I can use it. But rest assured, I have no intention of keeping you from your life for ten days. I’ll go for a few days, and then you’ll be free from the likes of me.”

  She crossed her arms and shook her head. He’d obviously said the wrong thing.

  “I don’t know what it’s like for you when you’re on tour,” she said angrily, “or who’s the boss of your schedule, but when you’re making a movie, the director holds all the cards. He owns you, and Chuck made it perfectly clear that we have to spend ten days together. So by cutting that time short, you are intentionally screwing with him.”

  Well, hell, what did she want from him? She wanted to spend ten days in Hurricane, West Virginia? He thought of Jude, whose life was on the line every day he refused to go to rehab. If Harvey wasn’t able to convince him to go, there was no way Boone would leave it up to anyone else to handle. And if Lucky got into trouble, or his mother fell ill again, he’d have to leave to help them out. Then there was Trish, putting herself on the line for him, even if she currently looked like she might want to throttle him. There was no way he was going to promise her something he probably couldn’t do.

  He hated to be a jerk, but the truth was the truth, and he wasn’t about to lie to make her feel better. And he needed to douse the flames between them or there would be no way in hell a few days alone would do a damn thing for his lack of focus.

  “I don’t want to screw this up for you, but unfortunately, pretty little A-lister, the world doesn’t revolve around you or this film. Two days, three if we need it.”

  She threw her hands up and reached for the door. “I had a ton of respect for you before we started filming. Now I have no idea what to make of you.”

  “How could you? All you see is a guy who’s screwing up your chance to make it big.” He paused, letting those words sink in. “At least now we’re even, because I have no idea what to make of you, either.”

  Chapter Three

  TRISH SAT IN the rental car outside the West Virginia airport the next evening flipping through Rolling Stone magazine while she waited for Boone to get off the phone so they could get on their way. He was wearing a path in the pavement beside the car. She looked down at his picture on the cover of the magazine, wishing she had picked up something else to read, but she’d thought her Kindle would hold her over while they traveled. The darn thing had died ten minutes ago, so she was left with three choices: Find something interesting to look at on her phone, watch Boone pace, or read the stupid magazine. Too frustrated to read, she closed the magazine and watched him pace. His face was a mask of concern. He’d been distracted on the long trip from Los Angeles, and he’d taken calls from his mother and brother, but he’d let every other call go to voicemail. She wondered if it was the blonde she’d seen him with that had his rapt attention now.

  She looked down at the shirtless picture of Boone on the cover of the magazine and her stomach fluttered. Fluttered! Ugh! Her stomach hadn’t fluttered since she was a teenager. She couldn’t afford those types of distractions. This was her only chance to get him past whatever was holding him back when he was acting.

  Trish grabbed a pen from her purse, smiling as she pressed the tip to his picture and drew thick dark glasses around his eyes. When that only made him sexier—the bastard—she drew scars on his face, big and black with thick stitches like Frankenstein. Nope. Still frigging hot. She scribbled over his shoulders and neck, filling in every inch of his skin, and creating a jagged-edged black smock to cover his perfection.

  She startled when he opened the car door, and shoved the magazine and pen in her bag.

  “Sorry that took so long.” He eyed her curiously, and his mouth quirked up as he settled into his seat. “Most people want me to take my clothes off, not put more on.”

  Trish followed his gaze to the magazine cover peeking out of her bag. Crap.

  “About time,” she snapped.

  He lowered his chin and spoke a little quieter and somehow rougher. “Are we going to do this, or what?”

  She blinked several times, fighting the ridiculous response, Yes, please. “We have no choice. Siamese twins, remember?”

  “What’s got your panties in a bunch?”

  She rolled her eyes as if hearing him talk about panties hadn’t made her insides quiver. “What do you think?”

  His jaw tightened as he drove out of the parking lot. “I said I was sorry the call took so long.”

  “It’s fine. Let’s just get going.”

  They listened to the radio as they drove. His phone vibrated a number of times. Each time he lifted it, glanced at the screen, then set it back down.

  It vibrated again and she finally had to say something. “Aren’t you going to answer that?”

  “Nope.”

  “What if it’s important?”

  “Unless you want to wait on the side of the road for another half hour, I’ll deal with it when we get there.”

  “So you’re not answering because you don’t want me to hear your conversation?” That piqued her curiosity.

  “Bingo.”

  Her phone rang and she reached into her bag for it with a smirk. “This is how much I care about you hearing my conversations.” She saw her brother Duke’s name on the screen and silently cursed. Why couldn’t it be Fiona? She could speak cryptically and Fiona would understand every word. Duke wasn’t nearly as easy.

  “Hey, Duke.”

  Boone slid a curious look her way. She gave him a see-how-easy-this-is smirk.

  “Hey, sis,” Duke said. “You didn’t return my calls. Everything okay?”

  “Sorry. Things have been crazy. Everything’s fine. I’m on my way to Hurricane, West Virginia, for ten days, as
per Chuck Russell.” She purposely left out that it was just her and Boone, given her brother’s propensity for worrying.

  “They changed the filming schedule? I thought you were in LA for another month.”

  “Something like that,” she said. “I spoke to Gabby last week. She said the wedding planning is done. You must be relieved.”

  “Very. I’d marry her tomorrow if she’d agree. Hold on a sec.” She heard him talking with someone, and when he came back on the line he sounded rushed. “Trish, I’ve got to run, but I wanted to make sure you were okay. Jake Braden called and said you were having a hard time with Boone Stryker. Let me know if you need me. The guy’s got a harsh rep. I don’t want you going face-to-face with him alone, okay? Promise me you won’t.”

  She eyed Boone, who was pretending not to listen, but she was pretty sure he was taking in every word. “Duke, you know there’s nothing I can’t handle.” Her brother knew it was true, even if he refused to treat her as if he believed it. She didn’t make the promise to Duke because she knew there was no way she’d keep it. But she assured him she’d call if she needed his help.

  They drove down Main Street, where a massive bank with wide stone columns that looked like it belonged in the Deep South was built beside a one-story, old-fashioned diner, and just beyond, stand-alone shops varied in heights and design. Some looked more like houses, while others looked like brick-front office buildings that belonged in bigger cities. The wide sidewalk was illuminated by streetlights, and potted trees graced every corner, giving the quirky little town a welcoming feel.

  They stopped for gas and groceries. The young cashier studied them as she rang up their purchase. “Y’all look familiar.”

  “Just passing through town,” Boone said.

  “Huh.” She watched Boone swipe his credit card, then handed him the receipt. “I know who you look like. That Cuban actor. What’s his name? Oh, I know! William Levy. My friend is gaga over him. But he doesn’t have all those tats like you do.”

  Boone smiled. “William Levy. I’ll have to Google him.”

  Trish stifled a laugh. William Levy was hot as hell, but he wasn’t exactly a household name. She shouldn’t be surprised Boone had no idea who he was.

  “Where do people go for fun around here?” she asked the cashier.

  “Fun? In Hurricane?” She laughed. “If you like playing pool or karaoke, you could try the Rum Hummer, but mostly people just hang out.”

  They thanked her, and while Boone put the groceries in the car, Trish went to use the ladies’ room. When she came back out the car was unlocked, but Boone was nowhere in sight. She had no idea what to make of him, but the more time they spent together, the more curious she became.

  He walked out of the grocery store a few minutes later with a little gray kitten snuggled against his chest, a litter box tucked under his arm, and balancing a full grocery bag against his side. Her heart melted a little at the sight. She took the grocery bag from him and peeked inside. Cat litter, kitten chow, and kitty toys. Toys? She just about liquefied.

  He climbed into the car and settled the kitty on his lap.

  “Did you get lonely?” she asked.

  “Found him wandering around the parking lot. He has no collar, so I went inside and asked around. No one seems to know where he came from.” He lifted the kitty and looked into its tiny little eyes. “I couldn’t just leave him there to starve.”

  “So, you’re keeping him?”

  He put the kitty back in his lap, laying one big hand protectively over his fluffy little body. “Would you rather I gave him to a shelter? They kill animals when they’re not adopted.”

  “No, of course not, but you don’t seem like a kitty type of guy.” She reached over to pet the kitten and their hands touched. Electricity sparked up her arm. He must have felt it, too, because when their gazes met, those sparks had nothing on the blazing heat their connection created.

  She pulled her hand away, a little flustered. “What’re you going to name him?”

  He shrugged as he pulled back onto the road. “Hell if I know.”

  “That’s not a very nice name,” she teased, earning her first-ever true Boone Stryker smile, and she liked it a lot. A whole heck of a lot. She wanted to fan herself. Instead, she rolled down the window and let the cool air wash over her heated skin.

  “Too bad he’s not a Siamese cat,” she teased.

  He laughed.

  Darn it. She should have known she’d like that, too.

  **

  TRISH WAS RIGHT about Boone not being a kitty type of guy, but he also wasn’t the kind of guy who could pass by someone—or something—in need. But he wasn’t about to name it. The minute he did, it would be his forever and would be added to the list of things he needed to worry about. Nope. No name for you, little buddy. He’d find him a good home with someone who had less crap going on in their lives. Maybe he’d give him to his mother or his sister.

  They set out to find the farmhouse. The GPS directed them to a narrow winding road that took them fifteen minutes away from any signs of civilization and forked at a wide creek. Boone stopped at the end of the road, having absolutely no clue which way they should turn, or even if they were in the right place.

  Trish was busy texting, sitting cross-legged on the passenger seat, like she was completely comfortable with herself, which wasn’t at all what he’d expected given how uptight she’d seemed. But then again, he’d expected her to dress the part of an uppity actress, too, and he’d been pleasantly surprised to see her wearing a pair of tattered form-fitting jeans shorts, a black scoop-neck shirt, and sandals. He’d also been surprised by the large colorful tattoo of a butterfly on her left arm just above her elbow and the hint of another tattoo peeking out from the collar of her shirt. They must have covered them with makeup when they were filming. And she definitely hadn’t come across as the type of woman to wear a sexy black and brown leather wrist cuff like she had on today. The one that gave him ideas of other types of cuffs he’d like to see around her wrists.

  “Take your pick,” he said. “Left or right?”

  “It’s a right-handed society, so go that way.” She eyed the sleeping kitten on his lap.

  “Okay, but you should really stop checking out my crotch.”

  “You wish.” She waved her finger toward the kitty. “I’ve seen what you have down there, remember?”

  “Yeah, and I also remember the rather impressed look in your eyes when you got an eyeful.”

  “You’re incorrigible.”

  “Encourage me, baby.”

  She smiled and it reached all the way up to her eyes. She had the most incredible hazel eyes, with varying shades of greens and browns. They vividly relayed her emotions, which drove home every scene she acted out. He already knew they also made it hard for her to hide her feelings. He stole another glance, taking in her high cheekbones and slightly pointed chin. She’d put her earbuds in. She’d listened to them on the plane, too. He was dying to know what she listened to. Her hair was tucked behind her ear, revealing a mix of stud and small hoop earrings from the lobe to the very top. She obviously wasn’t as straitlaced as she appeared. She had a perky nose, and he’d noticed that when she was angry, she crinkled it a little, which made her look even cuter.

  He felt a smile tugging at his lips. It had been a long time since he’d felt like smiling. He stole another glance. She was still texting, her thumbs racing over the screen. She was stubborn as the day was long. When he’d tried to carry her luggage, she’d insisted on carrying it herself, and when he’d tried to open the car door for her, she’d pushed past him and opened it. But then she’d been playful on the plane, stealing his snacks and pointing out women who were watching him. She made him want to escape the chaos in his own life. And it wasn’t just because she was gorgeous. Gorgeous women were a dime a dozen in Los Angeles. Maybe it was because she’d given up several days of her time, and though she’d seemed upset yesterday, she hadn’t made any snarky comments
about it today. Or maybe it was because she didn’t seem to have a shit storm following her around the way he did. Either way, she was getting to him.

  After driving for ten minutes along the windy road, Boone was ready to head back to the frigging airport. “Are you sure Chuck didn’t send us on a wild-goose chase?”

  Trish was moving to the beat of whatever she was listening to. He pulled an earbud from her ear, ignored her gaping jaw, and stuck it in his ear.

  “REO Speedwagon?” He laughed.

  She yanked it from his hand. “I happen to like them. And Journey, and just about any band from the eighties. Queen. Madonna. Phil Collins.” She pointed to a dirt road. “Look. There’s a house on the hill. I bet that’s it.”

  “I didn’t peg you as a music girl.” Boone turned onto the dirt driveway and followed rutted tire paths through the thick grass and up the hill.

  “I love music. I love all music, really, but nothing beats ‘Can’t Fight This Feeling’ or ‘Faithfully.’ Oh, wait, maybe ‘Keep on Loving You.’ I do like that. I love Michael Jackson, too.”

  He parked in front of the old clapboard farmhouse and watched her as she shoved her phone into her purse.

  “Stop looking at me. I don’t care if you hate those bands.”

  He didn’t bother to correct her and turned his attention to the house, wondering what else they might have in common.

  The dingy, faded white siding was aged and weathered, with a few slats missing. Overgrown bushes blocked the windows to the left of the front door. Weeds and ivy snaked up the doorframe, reaching like invasive tentacles toward the slightly bowed roof.

  “You’ve got to be shitting me.” Boone looked at Trish, expecting her to complain, but she was already out the door and heading toward the house. He kissed the kitty’s head and set him on the seat. “Wait here, little buddy.”

  “This is perfect,” Trish said as he stepped from the car. “It’s exactly as I’d imagined it would be.” She was calf deep in grass and didn’t seem to care, surprising him again.

  “It is?”

 
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