Chased by love love in b.., p.5
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       Chased by Love (Love in Bloom: The Ryders): Trish Ryder, p.5

           Melissa Foster

  Chapter Five

  AFTER BOONE HUNG up the phone he’d made another call and paced the fields while he talked. Trish, on the other hand, had a long, one-sided discussion with the kitten about how stupid she’d been to almost kiss Boone. Her hope of staying in character had gone out the window the minute she’d almost kissed him, and it had gone all the way down the road when she’d heard him call the person on the phone babe. What was she thinking? She was not about to become one of his groupies, and what kind of woman was she to kiss a guy who clearly had at least one gorgeous blond girlfriend? She hated herself for being such a fool.

  She was sitting at the kitchen table watching the kitty bat a stuffed mouse across the floor when Boone came through the door. His eyes swept over the wooden cabinets and old-fashioned stove, following the stovepipe up to the ceiling. Trish’s chest tightened. He was obviously trying to avoid looking at her, but he could have walked right through the kitchen to the living room, and he didn’t. He stood a few feet from the table, his eyes dropped to the kitten, and a small smile lifted his lips.

  “Guess he likes the toys you got him.” He pulled out the chair beside Trish, spun it around, and straddled it, crossing his arms over the vinyl orange back, and finally met her gaze. “I’m sorry for—”

  She held up her hand. “Don’t. Let’s not do this.”

  His brows knitted above his apologetic eyes. “But—”

  “This is already complicated enough. We’ve got ten days to make this work, and I’m sorry for whatever I did to lead you on, but I have no intention of becoming one of your groupies.” She pushed to her feet and he followed.

  “My groupies?” he scoffed, his eyes filled with disbelief.

  “Look, Boone. I’ve been around enough to hear all of the excuses and lines. We can write off that almost kiss to a momentary lack of judgment.”

  The muscles in his jaw jumped as he stepped closer. What was it about him and personal space? His presence was formidable enough from a few feet away, but every time he got close to her he brought a heat wave that Trish swore had hands that pinned her in place.

  “Lack of judgment?” he challenged. “In other words, you’d never kiss a guy like me.”

  He was breathing heavily, making it hard to keep from dropping her eyes to his chest as it rose and fell mere inches from her face. She held her ground despite her hammering heart.

  “If you mean a guy who hasn’t prepared for a role because he’s too busy playing the field, then yeah. That’s what I mean.”

  His eyes narrowed even further. There was something deeply entrancing in the way he was looking at her, and she was powerless to look away.

  “You know nothing about me.”

  “All I need to know is that you’re willing to do what it takes to get this movie made.”

  “Is that so?” He closed the remaining gap between them. His earthy, masculine smell sent her senses reeling.

  “Mm-hm,” she managed.

  He reached up and cupped her cheek, and her stupid legs wobbled.

  “Fine. Then let’s do this,” he said sharply. He scooped up the kitty and headed out the door.

  That was hours ago, and the sexual tension between them was still thick enough to slice up and serve for dinner. The sun had set long ago, but each time she mentioned taking a break, Boone nixed it. We haven’t done enough yet. Why waste time? Not until we do it right. His vehemence had surprised her, but she went with it. What else was there to do? Sit around and stare at each other, thinking about their almost kiss?

  She’d tried to get into character, but the tension was messing with her mojo, and she’d finally given up. They could work on the emotional delivery of the lines tomorrow. For now her goal was to at least have him learn what he needed to say.

  “This isn’t acting.” Boone tossed his script on the porch. “All we’re doing is reading lines, and they feel wrong.”

  “You have to know the lines before you can act them out, and it doesn’t matter if they feel wrong or right. Don’t ever improvise or Chuck will literally throw you off the set. He takes it as a personal affront, because he chose to direct the film as it’s written.”

  “I’m not going to improvise. Hell, Trish, I can hardly get the words out. But if all you want to do is read the lines, then why were you in character earlier?” He had the kitty tucked against his chest, where it had been snuggling for the last few scenes. When the kitty had woken up and climbed out of the guitar case, Trish had suggested they go inside, but Boone had scooped him up and said it was too confining, too stifling, too dark inside. Too many toos to remember.

  Seeing his heavily muscled, tattooed arm around the tiny kitten made him maddeningly irresistible.

  “Because I thought it was worth a try. You know, to jolt you into character. But you’re not exactly a natural actor.”

  “Is that so?” He lifted the kitten and looked into his eyes. “What do you think? Do I suck?”

  “I didn’t say you sucked.” Trish rose from where she’d been sitting against the house and brushed the dust from her shorts. “I said you weren’t a natural actor. You said as much yourself. I just don’t get it. You should totally connect with Rick’s character.”

  He headed for the door without responding, and she followed him into the kitchen. He set the kitten down by his food and filled a glass with water for himself, drinking it with his back to Trish.

  “Maybe we should talk about what throws you off, or why it’s hard for you to pretend, because you’ve got the whole badass rock star down pat, so...”

  “You’re right,” he said without turning around. “I’m not a natural actor, but you’re pretty judgy for a person who knows nothing about me.”

  “Well, that’s not going to change by refusing to talk to me about why you’re not connecting with the character. You need to let me in.” She moved beside him and craned her neck so her face was in front of his. She’d hoped to at least make him crack a smile, but his scowl was firmly planted in his chiseled features.

  “Now you want to get to know me?” He cocked a brow, and his luscious lips curved up.

  Flutter, flutter.

  “Not that way.”

  He folded his arms over his chest and turned to face her. “You think you’ve got me all figured out, don’t you? You assume I meant that you wanted to sleep with me. I’m just a badass rock star out to get laid. Forget morals and ethics; they must have gone out the window ages ago.”

  “That’s not what I said.” But she knew it was what she’d implied, and having been judged her whole career, she felt bad for putting him in that position. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to sound like I was judging you.”

  “Sorry to point this out, beautiful, but you were about to kiss me, too. What does that tell me about you?”

  Her lips moved, but no words came. Beautiful? She clamped her mouth shut and turned away, leaning her rear end against the counter. She didn’t really want to hear what he had to say, because it was probably harsh. And true.

  “I’ll tell you what it told me.” He moved in front of her and curled a finger beneath her chin, lifting it so she had no choice but to look into his eyes.

  His gaze was warm and steady, not angry or judgmental, which made her feel like a total bitch. She opened her mouth to apologize again and he pressed his finger to her lips. The gentle touch, his nearness, and the intensity of his gaze made her body pulse with desire.

  “Let me speak.” His voice was low and calm, which made her acutely aware that she was anything but calm. “You like to be in control, but when we’re close like this, your body goes hot and your heart races. I see it in the pulse at the base of your neck.”

  She reached up and touched her neck.

  “You can’t cover it. It’s in your eyes, in your voice, in the way you move. It scares you, but you don’t want to admit the fear, so you force yourself to stand up a little taller, to pretend you’re in control.” His lips curved up in a genuine smile. “And right now y
ou’re wondering how the hell an arrogant asshole like me can see through you.”

  She rolled her eyes to cover the fact that he’d read her perfectly.

  “How’d I do?”

  “Fair,” she lied.

  His brows knitted. “Really? Hm.”

  “Okay, fine. Better than fair.”

  “That’s because I don’t fake a damn thing, but your whole life is spent in some middle ground between fake and real.”

  “It is not.” She’d felt that way occasionally, but she wasn’t about to admit it.

  “You keep believing that.” He scooped up the kitten again. “Let’s put him in the bathroom where he can’t get hurt, and then let’s head down to the Rum Hummer for karaoke. See how you do live onstage without any retakes.”

  “What?” Karaoke? Was he kidding?

  “Before you can judge me, you need to see what it feels like to be me.”

  “What’s that supposed to mean?”

  “I write every word I sing. I get up onstage and I’ve got one shot to make it or break it in front of thousands of fans. You get fifty takes, with no audience, and you’re not even saying your own words. You’re saying what someone else has thought up. It’s a whole different ball game.” He nodded at the kitten’s food and water bowls. “Grab those, will you, please?”

  She carried the kitten’s bowls and followed him toward the bathroom. “Just because I get to reshoot scenes doesn’t mean it’s not hard or it doesn’t take skill.”

  “Obviously,” he said. “I thought it would be easy, and admittedly, I suck at pretending. But I’m willing to give it my best shot even if I fall short, or have a hard time figuring out what my best shot is.”

  They set the kitten and his bowls in the bathroom, where Boone had already set up the litter box. “Now it’s your turn to step into my shoes. You get one chance to get it right.”

  She knew how to sing, and she’d done karaoke dozens of times, but this wasn’t just karaoke. This was a challenge, and because he’d issued the challenge, she was nervous. “How is that fair?”

  “Who said anything about fair? You wanted to get to know me. I’m opening a door.” He flashed a cocky grin. “Chicken?”

  “Hardly.” She stepped into the hall. “I grew up with five brothers. Nothing scares me.”

  He closed the door behind them, openly studying her.

  Except maybe the way you’re looking at me right now.

  Holding her gaze, he brushed the back of his fingers down her cheek, and her stomach quivered.

  He winked. The smug, sexy bastard. “Then you should do just fine.”


  THE RUM HUMMER was dark, loud, and full of beer-drinking rednecks having a good time. Barrels stood on end, supporting round wooden tabletops, surrounded by backless wooden stools. Rough-looking men and women milled around two pool tables in the middle of the bar. Sounds of cue balls crashing mingled with off-key karaoke singers and the clip-clop of boots on the dance floor. Boone had noticed several men eyeing Trish from the moment they’d arrived, but one particular guy, who could easily pass for Scott Eastwood and looked like he chopped down trees with his bare hands for a living, hadn’t stopped ogling her all night. He half expected Trish to turn around and walk out, but she hadn’t blinked an eye at the intrusive leers or the scent of manual labor, fried foods, and alcohol that hung in the air. His protective urges had kicked into gear, and he’d slid an arm around her waist. She’d looked at him like he was nuts, but his comment, Just trying to get into character, had seemed to placate her.

  He was glad no one had recognized them. Then again, he doubted the Podunk town even had a movie theater, and based on the karaoke choices—country, country, or more country—he was fairly certain this crowd didn’t listen to his music.

  “You need to eat something if you’re going to drink.” Boone pushed the plate of chicken wings he’d ordered across the table toward Trish. They’d been at the Rum Hummer for more than an hour and she still had yet to eat anything.

  “I told you I can’t eat those.” Trish sipped her beer and pushed the plate away. “I starved myself for six weeks to get down to this size for the part. I’m not about to ruin it for greasy chicken wings. I shouldn’t have beer, either, but tonight I need it.”

  “Yeah, about this whole not eating thing. It can’t be healthy to live on a few carrots.” Trish was already on her second drink. “How about if I have them bake a piece of chicken or make you a salad?”

  “I eat more than carrots.” She took another drink. “Besides, I think your choices here are limited to fried or barbecued, which normally I’d be all over.”

  “Really? I thought all actresses grazed on grass or seaweed,” he said to try to lighten the mood.

  “Ha-ha. Maybe most do, but I love to eat. I’m lucky. I have a great metabolism, but I also exercise so I can eat more. I just can’t indulge right now.”

  I’d like to indulge, but not on food.

  So much for hoping tonight would be a good distraction from the heat sizzling between them. The more time he spent with Trish, the more he wanted to know about her. Hopefully the Rum Hummer would at least take his mind off of Jude for a few hours. When Honor had called, she’d said one of their friends had seen Jude in their hometown, but they’d lost track of him again. Boone was debating leaving to try to find him, but he couldn’t let Trish down like that.

  Being okay with that thought was another issue altogether. He felt like he was letting Jude down, choosing Trish over him.

  “We can cook up something healthy when we get back to the house,” he suggested.

  “I’m fine, really.”

  “You don’t mind starving?”

  She shrugged. “It was hard at first, but it’s been so long that I’m used to not eating. If I start to eat I’ll realize I’m hungry, and then all hell will break loose.”

  “All hell, huh?” He laughed. “Well, we can’t have that, now, can we?”

  She shook her head and smiled. Man, her smile got to him every damn time.

  “You about ready to sing?” He nodded toward the stage.

  “Not really.” She finished her beer and held up the empty bottle, waving it at the waitress, who held up a finger indicating she’d bring one right over.

  “Whoa, maybe you should slow down.”

  “I think I know my limit.”

  The waitress set Trish’s beer on the table, placed a hand on her hip, and ran an appreciative gaze over Boone. “What can I get you, big boy?”

  He had no interest in the chunky blonde who showed too much cleavage and too little class.

  Trish leaned across the table and patted his hand. “Yeah, big boy. What can she get you?”

  He paid for Trish’s drink. “I’m doing just fine, thank you.”

  Unless Trish was offering herself up, he wasn’t interested.

  “A’righty, then,” the waitress said. “You let me know if you need, or want, anything at all.”

  As the waitress walked away, Trish said, “You just ruined her whole night.”

  “You’re right.” He went after the waitress and asked her to put Trish’s name in for karaoke. Unfortunately, she recognized him and asked him for his autograph, then thrust her chest out and pointed to her shirt just above her left breast. He autographed her shirt as quickly as he could, hoping no one else noticed. He didn’t want to deal with that kind of attention tonight.

  When he returned to the table, Trish rolled her eyes.

  “Seriously? Her? Did you really just autograph her boobs? What’s next? Meeting her in the bathroom for a quickie?”

  He let the comment roll off his back. She reached for her drink and Boone grabbed her hand.

  She glared at him. “I told you I know my limit.”

  “I don’t doubt that. But do you know your limit when you’re existing on fumes rather than food?” She tried to pull her hand from his, but he held on tight. Tugging her closer, he lowered his voice. “I thought you weren’t a
fraid of singing.”

  “I’m not.” Her eyes never left his.

  “If you’re not afraid of singing, then why are you trying to get hammered?”

  “Well, now, that would be none of your business.” She grabbed the beer and sucked down half of it. With a haughty look, she jumped off her stool, strutted over to a group of guys standing by the pool table, and grabbed the hand of the Scott Eastwood lookalike. “Come on, big guy. Let’s see if you can dance.”

  Are you shitting me? Boone’s chest constricted as they headed to the dance floor. Trish spun into the guy’s arms with a wide smile. Boone didn’t think there was a man alive who could see her incredible smile and not smile himself, but the dumbass she was dancing with actually turned away and shot a greedy look to his buddies by the pool table, who held up their beers as if to say, Go for it.

  Go for it, my ass.

  Boone’s hands fisted. Trish wasn’t his, and she got on his last nerve—and under his skin in the sexiest of ways—but every muscle in his body flexed with possessiveness.

  The woman onstage sang Miranda Lambert’s “Mama’s Broken Heart.” Trish danced out of the man’s arms, moving like she owned the dance floor as she pounded out some kind of country step dance. The other couples fanned out around her, clapping and tapping their booted feet. Trish sang every word, making hand gestures that indicated she was nobody’s fool, tossing flirtatious smiles and winks like confetti, and acting out the lyrics as she moved her sweet little body with the grace and fluidity of a professional dancer. An incredibly sexy professional dancer.

  The guys around the pool table headed for the dance floor, and Boone pushed to his feet like a lion protecting his pride. Trish wasn’t shitting him. The woman was fearless, singing to the mesmerized crowd like she was the one onstage, swinging her hair like she was in a music video, and turning on every red-blooded male in the place.

  Boone stood beside the guy she’d dragged to the dance floor, who was practically rubbing his hands together and drooling as she swayed her hips and shoulders to the beat.

  “She’s mine tonight,” the guy said to one of his buddies. “One more dance and I’m taking that doll out back and...” He did several hip thrusts.

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