Chased by love love in b.., p.4
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       Chased by Love (Love in Bloom: The Ryders): Trish Ryder, p.4

           Melissa Foster
 

  She put a hand on her hip and glared at him. “Now I’m positive you haven’t read the whole script, because this house is exactly what I pictured Rick and Delia’s house would look like.”

  He had an excuse ready, but when he opened his mouth to set it free, it lodged in his throat. He’d never been good at lying, and sometimes he wished he could, like right now, because it would make things like this a lot easier.

  “I knew it.” She stormed up the front porch. “Why did you even agree to do this film?”

  He caught her by the arm. “So what if I didn’t have time to read the whole script? Is that a crime?”

  “No, but it is unprofessional and disrespectful to the rest of us who really care.” She glowered at him, but he saw through the anger to the doleful undercurrent, as if he’d personally let her down.

  That bugged the shit out of him, and momentarily rendered him silent.

  “I can’t believe you,” she seethed. “If I was in one of your music videos, I’d never treat it like it didn’t matter.”

  “Trish—”

  She wrenched her arm from his grip. “Save it, because whatever you have to say doesn’t excuse your apathy for the project. You could have let the role go to someone who cared.”

  “Goddamn it. You’re so sure of yourself, aren’t you?”

  She turned with a shocked expression.

  “You’re right,” he admitted. “I could have let the role go to someone else. But just because it could have gone to a better actor—which it definitely could have, considering I’m not a fucking faker—doesn’t mean it would have gone to someone who cares more about the story than I do.”

  She crossed her arms and stared at him like she was deciding if she wanted to believe him. He’d been picked apart by the press and public for a decade. Would it ever end?

  “I’m here, in the middle of nowhere,” he finally said in the calmest voice he could muster, which was about as calm as a winter storm. “If I didn’t give a shit about the movie, do you really think I’d be here?”

  Her eyes narrowed, hurt and anger warring for dominance. He turned and headed for the car, but not before seeing that anger had won the battle. Could he blame her? Anyone would feel the barb he’d tossed like they were nothing. Damn it. He hadn’t meant it like that, and Trish didn’t deserve it. Especially since she was the one who didn’t need to be here. Fighting against years of his finely honed skill of blocking everyone but his family and closest friends out, he turned to apologize, but she’d already disappeared into the house.

  Chapter Four

  “I’M TELLING YOU, Fi, he’s as arrogant and selfish as he is sickeningly sexy, and—” Trish groaned into the phone. She and Boone had moved through the house in uncomfortable silence, putting away their belongings and the food they’d bought. Every step felt like she was wading through a tension-filled swamp. She knew better than to take anything another actor—or wannabe actor—said or did personally, but for some reason his words stung. They shouldn’t. She was nothing to him but someone to help him get through this role, and he was nothing to her. It was her ridiculous reaction that had driven her out the door and across the field to vent to Fiona. They’d been college roommates, and if anyone would let her rant, it was Fiona.

  “So what?” Fiona said. “So are most of the actors you deal with.”

  “He’s not an actor.”

  “Right, which is why you’re there in the first place. Chuck was right to quarantine you two. You’re the one who always says immersion is the only way to get into your character’s head. You know how this game is played.”

  “I know,” Trish relented. “I’m stuck with him for ten days, if he stays that long.”

  “For several weeks,” Fiona corrected. “This is just to get him up to par. You still have to film the movie. And may I remind you that for years you have had his picture as the wallpaper on your laptop, and before he missed that first meeting you were over the moon about being introduced to him, much less working with him.”

  It was true. Trish had been like a swooning teenager, which was silly, because she’d known all about Boone’s reputation. The sheer number of scantily clad women and men hanging around his trailer had reinforced the rumors.

  “That was before he ruined my fantasy.”

  Fiona laughed. “Now we’re getting to the heart of the problem.”

  Trish sighed and gazed at the farmhouse. Boone had carried the kitten the whole time he’d put things away. “You know,” she said with a little less anger. “He could have lied to me about not reading the script.”

  “Yeah, I pointed that out when you told me.”

  “I know. I’m just thinking about it again.” She’d been too upset in the first five minutes of their phone call to process anything, but now that she was calmer, the sweeter side of Boone returned to the forefront of her mind. “He also nixed that party the minute I asked, and he thanked me for offering to help him with his acting. But there’s something gruff about him, and how can anyone take on this big of a movie and not study their lines day and night?”

  “Trish, you know the answer to that.”

  Fiona paused long enough for Trish to agree. There were plenty of great actors that weren’t always prepared for the whole movie their first few weeks of filming.

  “Remember how excited I was about filming here?” She headed back toward the house. “I dreamed about this house for weeks, and the minute we pulled up, I could feel it, Fi. It’s so right for Rick and Delia.”

  “How could I forget? You texted about it nonstop, and now you’re there, where Delia and Rick’s world will come to life. You should just brush off the crap about Boone and dive into your character like you always do.”

  She thought about that for a minute. The house was absolutely perfect, from the creaking floorboards and cobwebs to the dented and scuffed old-fashioned appliances and the cracked window in the living room.

  “Normally I would, but I have to run lines with a guy who goes cold as ice when he acts.”

  “Hm. Well, you can’t let him ruin this chance for you, so what about if you spend the time together in character? He won’t be able to help but let down his guard and fall into sync.”

  She heard the smile and challenge in Fiona’s voice. “You know what? You’re right. This is my shot. I can’t let him ruin my mojo.”

  “Exactly, and think of how much stronger your acting will be for it. You’ve never had this opportunity with a co-star before. You have ten whole days to hone your skills and perfect the nuances of your chemistry.”

  “Um…That’s part of the problem. I’m having a lot of trouble finding a balance between the fantasy of who I thought Boone was and reality.”

  Fiona laughed. “Well, duh.”

  “What’s that supposed to mean?”

  “We both know you’re a kick-ass actress, but you forget that I know you better than anyone else in the entire world. You can tell me he’s the biggest ass you’ve ever met, but I can still read between the lines. You’re totally hot for him despite his assholishness.”

  “I am not.” She totally was, but she was fighting it, and planned to fight it until the movie was over, when she could put enough space between them to get over her crush.

  “Okay, we’ll pretend you’re not. But since when do you take anything another actor—especially a newbie actor—says to heart?” Fiona asked. “Usually you roll your eyes and carry on.”

  “Fine! I’ll admit that when we’re not acting, the sexual tension is white-hot, but when we act, it’s like he turns it off. Not exactly an ego boost for me, or good for my acting.”

  “But you’re totally not hot for him,” Fiona teased. “Just in case you change your mind, you could always duct tape his mouth shut to keep him from saying something gruff and ruining your fantasy.”

  Trish laughed. “He’d rip it off.”

  “Then bind his hands,” Fiona suggested. “To the bed.”

  The image of Boone tethered to
the bed, naked and blindfolded, brought goose bumps. Definitely blindfolded, because those soulful eyes of his made her forget her own name.

  “Not helping, Fi.”

  “Oh, I think you’re wrong. I can hear the gears in your mind churning.”

  “I’m hanging up now. Love you.”

  She ended the call, thinking about what Fiona had suggested about staying in character, and trying not to think about Boone tied to her bed. Staying in character was a perfect idea. It would be impossible for Boone to avoid doing the same.

  Poor drug-addict girlfriend, here I come.

  As she approached the house, a familiar melody filled the air. Boone was playing a song he’d written called “Beyond the Dust,” one of her favorites. He wasn’t singing, just strumming the tumultuous tune, but in her head she heard his raspy singing voice.

  Strangers pass

  Eyes full of stars

  Full of themselves, full of pain

  Full of dreams, full of shit

  Over the bridge, on the road

  They see the sky, passersby

  But they don’t see

  They don’t see

  They don’t see beyond the dust

  Boone came into view on the back porch, silencing his voice in Trish’s head. He sat on the top step with one leg stretched down the stairs, the other bent at the knee, as he played his guitar, gazing out at acres of barren land. She wondered what he was thinking about, or if he was thinking at all. When she acted, she fell into a zone where the only thing that existed was the moment she was creating. Was playing his guitar like that for him? Did he see the clouds rolling in, casting shadows that moved with the wind? Or was he lost in each pluck of the strings, in each word he did or didn’t sing?

  Her cell phone rang and he turned. Their eyes caught and held. Her pulse quickened and her brain registered a flash of all-consuming heat. Her phone rang again and she shifted her eyes away as she hurried inside and answered the call from Joel, Chuck’s assistant. Her heart hammered against her ribs as she climbed the steps to her bedroom and dug out her script while answering Joel’s questions. She assured him they had what they needed and were already running lines. It was a fib, but they would be running them soon enough, assuming she could get her crazy hormones under control.

  **

  BOONE HEARD THE screen door open and Trish’s footsteps approaching. He’d wanted to apologize to her earlier, but she’d clammed up like a vise. And the next thing he knew, she’d stormed out of the house in those sexy little shorts, her long legs carrying her fast and furious across the field, until she was so far away she’d faded into the trees. He’d told himself she wasn’t his problem, as he did with almost every other woman he knew, and he’d gone about getting himself and the kitty settled. After feeding the kitten, he’d come outside to try to get his mind off of Trish and waited to hear from Harvey. When Harvey had called earlier he said he’d gone to Jude’s place and Jude wasn’t there. He’d put calls out and was trying to track him down. Boone had tried to call Jude a few times since they’d arrived, but all his calls had gone to voicemail. The incident with Trish hadn’t helped his mood, and he knew the crap going on with Jude had driven his poor reaction to Trish.

  Trish sat down beside him and reached into his guitar case to pet the sleeping kitty. He’d put a few of his T-shirts in the case for the kitten to sleep on. He didn’t want to leave him alone in the house. There were too many places for him to get into trouble.

  “You set up a bed for him.”

  The sweetness of Trish’s tone drew his attention, and she smiled. Either this chick was batshit crazy or she’d smoked some wicked weed in the fields, because there wasn’t a hint of the angry, intense woman who had stormed away from the house earlier. He had enough batshit crazy in his life to gag on, and if she was a toker or a tweaker he wanted no part of these next ten days or this movie.

  He ran an assessing gaze over her face. Her eyes were clear and bright, but she was definitely acting different, giving off a lackadaisical vibe.

  “I didn’t see a pet bed at the store, and I wanted to keep an eye on him.”

  “That was sweet of you. What’re you goin’ to call him?”

  Her dialect caught him by surprise. Trish was well spoken and he’d talked with her enough on the trip there to know she didn’t say things like goin’. He rested his guitar on his thigh, trying to figure out what kind of game she was playing. “I haven’t thought about it.”

  “Well, I’m sure you’ll figure it out.”

  She gazed into his eyes with a trusting expression that made his gut knot up.

  “All these years of listenin’ to you play,” she said. “I don’t want to think about the day you’ll no longer be here.”

  Ice ran down his spine at the softness and slow cadence of her words.

  She ran a finger down his arm. “Come on, Ricky. Don’t pretend anymore. We both know this time next month you’ll be off becoming a star.”

  Ricky. Holy hell, she was acting, and she was so damn good at it she’d already knocked him off-balance. He closed his eyes for a second, trying to find his bearings. On the set he wasn’t prepared for the unearthing of the past the scenes inevitably brought, but here, in the middle of nowhere, when he’d been ready to apologize and the script was far from his mind, he felt ambushed.

  “Trish.”

  “Delia, honey.” She smiled and tilted her head in an innocent pose that made his throat thicken.

  She was good. Too good. She was the reason his walls came up when they were on set. He’d never anticipated that doing this movie would dredge up a part of his life he’d thought he’d moved past. How was he supposed to act in a movie when everything Trish did reminded him of one of the toughest moments of his life?

  “Trish,” he warned. “Whatever it is you’re doing. Stop.”

  She reached behind her and dropped a copy of the No Strings script on his lap with a smirk. “This is what we’re here for. Remember?”

  He pushed to his feet. She was right, but that didn’t change the fact that when she fell into the role of Delia he saw Destiny. And every time they got to the scenes where she was drugged out, a rush of anger and sadness wound around him until he felt like he was ready to explode.

  “Of course I remember, but—”

  “But nothing.” She stepped closer. Her face filled with determination, contrasting sharply with the soft-spoken woman she’d portrayed only moments ago. “We have ten days to get this right, and even if I have to tie you down to get you to learn your lines, we’re making this movie.”

  And just like that, she became the defiant, smart, talented actress, so different from the needy women he was used to, and she pushed all of his buttons. He hadn’t had those buttons pushed in a very long time, and instead of fighting it, he went with it. The perfect distraction from a reality he didn’t want to face.

  “Honey, I’m not into being tied up, but I might make an exception for you.”

  Her smile turned sinful. “You have a very short memory.” Her eyes roved over his face and down his chest, sending heat blazing south. When she met his gaze again, all that heat whooshed away, replaced with a cold, hard stare.

  “I’m not a groupie. I’m a serious actress, and sleeping with you is last on my very long list of things I want to accomplish.” The heat between them belied her tone.

  “But I am on your list,” he said, hoping to circle her back to the tying-up threat. He liked that image a hell of a lot more than the other emotions their scenes were dredging up.

  She opened her mouth, then snapped it shut. Her eyes darkened, giving rise to gold flecks around her pupils. He remained silent, taking pleasure in the flush rising on her skin as he stepped closer.

  “You have the most beautiful eyes.” The shock of the unexpected compliment registered in her widening eyes at the same time it registered in his own head, but she made no move to step away.

  “This isn’t a game to me, Boone.”

&nbs
p; “It’s not a game to me either. This movie really is important to me. Otherwise I wouldn’t have taken it on. I’m not that kind of person. I take my commitments very seriously.”

  Her eyes narrowed, like she was once again trying to decide if she could trust anything he said. “But you’d rather deflect, or run away, than figure out how to play the part of Rick Champion.”

  “I don’t run away,” he assured her. “I’m sorry I tried to distract you from rehearsing. It was a shitty thing to do, but it’s not easy for me to get into character. I don’t pretend well.” And apparently I have no control over what I say around you, either, because why the hell am I telling you all of this?

  “Obviously,” she said, a little shaky.

  His eyes dropped to her mouth, and she nervously licked her lips. His whole body filled with the need to feel her in his arms. When their eyes met, she was peering at him longingly, desire swimming in her eyes. Despite the warning bells going off in his head alerting him to the complications this would bring, he leaned down at the same time she tilted her face up toward him.

  “Boone.” Her breath whispered over his lips.

  His life had become a plethora of commitments and expectations. There were so few things that gave him real pleasure, and it had been too long since he’d truly wanted to kiss someone. He savored the heat pulsing between them. He was in no hurry as he carefully slid one arm around her waist, tugging her body against his, reveling in her sharp gasp and the feel of her arms circling his neck. He brushed his lips over hers and she closed her eyes, just as Honor’s ringtone sounded from his pocket.

  Trish’s eyes flew open and he instinctively tightened his grip around her even though he had to answer the call in case Honor had heard from Jude. Trish must have read the urgency in his expression, because as the ringtone sounded again, she pushed from his arms.

  “I’m sorry,” he said, digging his phone out of his pocket.

  She waved a dismissive hand, avoiding his gaze.

  “Damn it,” he grumbled under his breath as she picked up the kitten. He answered Honor’s call as Trish headed into the house. “Hey, babe, what’s up?”

 
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