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Love unrehearsed, p.1
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       Love Unrehearsed, p.1

           Tina Reber
Love Unrehearsed

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  Love Unrehearsed

  A Novel

  Tina Reber

  Atria Paperback

  New York London Toronto Sydney New Delhi


  6:49 A.M.

  Chapter 1—Eye-Opening

  Chapter 2—Deviation

  Chapter 3—Atonement

  Chapter 4—Party

  Chapter 5—Oui

  Chapter 6—Tour

  Chapter 7—Bruised

  Chapter 8—Recover

  Chapter 9—Act

  Chapter 10—React

  Chapter 11—Departure

  Chapter 12—Skeletons

  Chapter 13—Uncovered

  Chapter 14—Weekend

  Chapter 15—Discoveries

  Chapter 16—Limelight

  Chapter 17—Reconnected

  Chapter 18—When It Rains

  Chapter 19—Roots

  Chapter 20—Rebound

  Chapter 21—Unguarded

  Chapter 22—Fiasco

  Chapter 23—Wedding and Ashes

  Chapter 24—Face-off

  Chapter 25—Done

  Chapter 26—Marry Me


  Bonus Chapter


  About Tina Reber


  This one is for you.

  You were right.

  There’s not a day that goes by

  that I don’t miss you.

  Thanks for all the wisdom.

  “He’s mine!” Lauren Delaney screamed as she pushed through the crowd, violently shoving the innocent bystanders that separated us out of her way.

  Her famous face, painted to perfection by a team of high-priced Hollywood makeup artists, was psychotically twisted like a woman possessed by the devil.

  Instant terror crept through my veins and spread throughout my entire body just from the sight of her.

  My muscles locked down, instinctively preparing for an altercation that was long overdue.

  Despite her hellish demeanor, the conniving bitch still managed to look glamorous in her shimmery silver gown and stilettos as she charged straight at me. The blockbuster hit starlet obviously had no intentions to fight fair tonight. The crowd parted and it took a fraction of a second after that for me to notice the bright lights gleam off a long-bladed knife clenched in her fist.

  My mind ordered my body to run.

  A girl-fueled screaming match I could handle, although the verbal bitch-slapping I secretly desired to unleash on her would be best delivered in a more private setting. I could even deal with some hair pulling and feeble punches, if she left me no choice but to defend myself. Lord knows I wanted to rip her to shreds and dance on her grave for all the problems she had caused. But at this moment, I was in no way prepared to fend off a knife attack.

  Thousands of flashes blinded me as the photographers swarmed like angry bees, stinging my eyes with each click. As I raised my hands to shield my face from the relentless paparazzi, Lauren plowed into my chest, knocking the air from my lungs and my feet out from under me. The back of my head slammed onto the red carpet, sending an instant message of overwhelming pain through my skull. Speckles of white blended in with a sea of crimson as I tried to refocus through the blur.

  “Get off of me!” I screamed as she straddled me. I caught her by the wrist as she raised the blade, straining with her to keep from being stabbed.

  “You really think you belong with him?” Lauren taunted as she pressed the blade closer to my face.

  Planted on top of me, she definitely had the upper hand and the advantage of leverage. The sting from the cold steel made me wince when the sharp tip scraped over my cheek.

  “Are you prepared to die for him, bitch?”

  Little did she know that when I thought I had lost Ryan, a vital part of me did die for him that day. But it was the risk that I took to become involved with a famous celebrity, knowing that there was the possibility of my heart being returned to me in pieces. Thankfully, the miracle of my reunion with Ryan breathed new life into me, and my fractured heart and soul were well on their way to full recovery. I knew I could survive anything now.

  As I struggled with her, darkness loomed around the edges of my thoughts, sending a chill through my veins. Foreboding concrete block walls suddenly formed and surrounded us, filling me with dread as they encased us in. Fear of impending death swelled inside me as we were being entombed.

  I tried to scream but Lauren’s fingers tightened around my windpipe, cutting off the flow of precious air.

  A vision of my father, resembling a faint memory, ghosted and then solidified into view. His fury was palpable; he appeared ready to go on a murderous rampage. His angry fists slugged into the hazy figure of a lesser man.

  His bloodied hands wrapped tightly around a young man’s throat, mimicking the choke hold Lauren had on me. The two men continued to struggle, knocking things over in their wake. A large metal object flew from the wall and crashed heavy to the floor, causing a scream to tear from my throat as it missed my head by inches. My tears burned as they dripped uncontrollably from the corners of my eyes.

  I strained through the haze to see the young man’s face, but no matter how hard I tried to focus, his features remained obscured by long, straggly, jet-black hair.

  Suddenly, for no explainable reason, I didn’t care about myself anymore. Or my father. Or Lauren. I wanted to help the young man. I needed to help him, defend him. I had to stop my dad from killing him.

  The guy looked right at me and spoke in an echoed rush as my dad continued to strangle him. “I love you, baby girl. I would never hurt you.”

  A tiny voice inside me knew that he spoke the truth. Still, my body shook, watching his white teeth turn an ominous red when he smiled at me.

  “You will never touch her again!” my dad shouted.

  A bloodied tear fell down the young man’s cheek. And then another. I wanted to go to him and wrap my arms around him because that’s what you do when people are sad. Big teddy-bear hugs always make the tears stop.

  Lauren’s clenched hand shook my neck, instantly reclaiming my attention. With a snarl, she raised the blade high in the air.

  As I watched the blade come down, reluctantly resigned to letting Death take me and the darkness claim me, one last word echoed through the air.


  Chapter 1


  “What the hell?” Ryan’s head flew off his pillow, roused from his deep sleep when I screamed.

  I sat up and kicked the blankets away with my feet, panicking to untangle myself as I rubbed the phantom pain stabbing fire into my chest. Holy shit. Holy shit. Damn, that felt so real. Okay, calm down.

  It was just a dream. Just a dream.

  Ryan leaned up on the mound of hotel pillows. I could see him scanning the room, looking for some sort of danger. “Tar, are you all right?” His hand grasped my thigh as he shifted his body closer. “Taryn, what happened?”

  I wanted to answer him but I was momentarily stunned and completely incapable of coherent speech, still caught in a freaked-out haze between nightmare and reality. I tried to say something, I really did, but all that came from my mouth were raspy, stuttered breaths.

  Fortunately it didn’t take me long to realize where I was, for it had been less than twenty-four hours ago when I boarded a plane and departed Providence, Rhode Island. Now I was shaken and panting f
or air in a luxurious hotel suite in Los Angeles, ripped from sleep by my own ridiculous thoughts.

  Ryan tugged my chin; his voice was frantically curt. “Look at me.” His hand brushed my long hair out of my eyes. “Taryn, are you okay? Tar? Answer me.”

  I grasped his arm and managed a weak nod. “Yeah, I’m okay. I’m . . . I’m so sorry I woke you.”

  “Don’t worry about me,” he insisted, curling up closer.

  If his throbbing pulse in my hand was any indication, I’d say I had scared the shit out of him, too.

  He smoothed my hair back, wrapping a few strands behind my ear. “What happened? You have a nightmare?”

  I nodded, trying to save myself from having to explain.

  “Jeez, baby.” Ryan sighed. “Come here. Try to relax.” He coaxed me back down to his chest and tugged the sheet and blankets over us again.

  His skin was warm and the hand rubbing my back was so comforting that I felt my erratic breathing starting to calm.

  “It’s okay. I’ve got you.” He kissed the top of my head, resting his lips there as he hugged me.

  There, in his arms, I felt completely safe. But out there in the public eye, things were out of his control.

  I had learned early on in this relationship that the terror factor grew exponentially when you’re a celebrity.

  And dating a famous celebrity was no different—actually it was worse when delusional fans became obsessively jealous, insanely possessive, and wanted you out of the way. Even normal, sane people lost their minds when it came to celebrities. Combine that with a world full of crazy people and the threats became very real.

  I was thankful that Ryan was insistent about sending Mike into LAX yesterday to escort us safely out of the airport, or else the paparazzi would have eaten me alive. Ryan’s public proposal painted a new, fat target on my back. It was one thing to be the local “fling” he had while on location; it was completely another once rumors started circulating that he actually put a ring on my finger.

  How the hell they recognized me among all the other people hurrying through the airport was mind-boggling. Trying to get through the gauntlet of paparazzi in LAX was akin to sidestepping land mines.

  While I was very grateful for Mike’s protection, I still think the photographers only noticed me because they recognized Ryan’s bodyguard first.

  Heck, every public picture taken of Ryan lately had Mike in it somewhere—holding back fans, watching the invisible perimeter around Ryan with the expertise of a trained hunter. Between his gorgeous body and killer smile, Mike Murphy was becoming as famous as Ryan Christensen.

  “You want to tell me what the hell scared you awake like that?”

  Aw shit. I shrugged, not willing to ruin my first morning finally back in his arms by getting into some stupid nonsense. “It was just . . . I don’t even remember it anymore. I’ll be all right.”

  Ryan huffed softly as I waited for him to call me out on my little lie. “Did you dream about her again?”

  I tensed, not exactly sure which “her” he was referring to.

  When I didn’t respond, he tightened his arms. “She’s in jail, Taryn. She can’t hurt us anymore.”

  Well, at least he had the psycho-bitch part right. Shame he picked the wrong one. Angelica, our incarcerated stalker, wasn’t the one who had haunted my thoughts but I wasn’t about to set him straight.

  “I know. It was just a stupid dream.”

  “Why don’t you tell me about it? You’ll feel better if you get it out.”

  Part of me wanted to share, but what the heck would I tell him? I dreamt about your über-famous, crazy-bitch ex-girlfriend trying to kill me? Oh, and if that isn’t bad enough, sometimes when I dream about my dead father, he’s bloody and choking the life out of some teenager with pitch-black hair? Some things are better left unsaid.

  Ryan let out a lengthy yawn and stretched his legs, poking me in the rear end with the one part of his anatomy that was already wide awake. His two-day-old beard felt wonderful, scratching my back when he rubbed up on me. With a kiss on my shoulder, he said, “All right. I won’t ask anymore. You talk about it only if you want to. What time is it?”

  I glanced at the clock on the bedside table. “It’s almost seven.”

  Cool air brushed my naked body as he rolled out from underneath the warm covers.

  I tried to banish the last remnants of my nightmare from my memory, but certain parts were playing over and over again like a bad video stuck on repeat. It wasn’t the first time I dreamed about the boy with black hair and bloody red teeth. He had made repeat appearances in my dreams for as long as I could remember, always rehashing the same scene where my father is trying to kill him.

  The part where Lauren Delaney factored in was a new and very unwelcome addition to the nightmare.


  How pleased she must have been with herself when she nearly succeeded in breaking up my relationship with Ryan. Thankfully, she failed. My disgust for her intensified. I couldn’t let her get to me like this, not even in my dreams.

  I shook my head as if it would help clear away the horrible visions. I had to own up to the fact that it was only my tormented thoughts haunting me; it’s not like Lauren ever physically assaulted me in real life. No, her assault was much stealthier, leaving a trail of false evidence to lead me to believe she and Ryan had rekindled their previous relationship. My heart still ached thinking that just five short days ago I truly believed Ryan’s parents had shown up to move him out of my apartment.

  I glanced at my new diamond engagement ring—Ryan’s promise of a future and total commitment to me. His intention of “Forever” was etched inside the band.

  I vowed to myself that I’d do everything within my power to prove her and everyone else wrong. Ryan Christensen was the best thing that had ever happened to me. His love was like an invisible blanket that I had the privilege of wearing every day. But if our relationship was going to survive the test of time, I had to start handling things differently.

  My eyes followed Ryan in the dim light as he shuffled across the carpeting. His muscular arm flexed, accentuating his bicep, when he used his hand to comb his tawny, disheveled hair back. My eyes drifted from his yawning mouth, down the contours of his hard, naked body, to his other part that was still semi-erect.

  All of the pictures ever taken of this man and all the posters with his likeness on them could never do the real thing justice. All six feet, two inches of his cut, buff, and tight movie star body was one hell of a mental and visual distraction.

  I never knew I could love a man so much and have it returned to me in spades. Even when things were at their worst, he didn’t give up on me. That alone said it all. A small smile formed on my lips as I thought about eating him for breakfast.

  “What?” he asked with a sleepy smirk. Ryan crawled back into bed, snuggling around me.

  I secretly hoped that after my rude awakening he’d be able to fall back asleep, considering that it was well after midnight when his family and our friends finally left our suite last night. Ryan had arranged for Marie and Gary and Pete and Tammy to come to L.A. with me, another secret surprise that I didn’t know about. I gave Marie a long lecture on the plane about how much I hate secrets, no matter how much he wanted me to be surprised. Over these last few weeks, she and Ryan had become thicker than thieves.

  I spotted the opened bottle of champagne left out on the nightstand. My mind instantly recalled how he had tortured my breasts with the edge of the ice-cold bottle, making them painfully alert. How I got even with him, hiding a piece of ice from the bucket in my mouth and then torturing his nipples with the same attention.

  “I’m all sticky,” Ryan muttered softly.

  “I was just thinking about that. Sticky, but oh so worth it.”

  He growled in my ear. “I do believe we’ll have to do that again. Maybe try extra-sticky honey next time?”

  “Or melted chocolate.”

  He swept my hair to the si
de and started kissing and biting my neck. “Definitely. Oh, there are so many things I can drizzle and lick off your body. The possibilities are endless.”

  His teasing tickle caused a bone-jolting shiver to blast through my body.

  His eyes quickly leveled on mine, then he grimaced at me. “You know I’d never let anything happen to you. You know that, right?”

  He must have misread my reaction. I knew he meant well but some things were out of his power—that is, unless some guy was trying to talk to me. Then the protective, jealous boyfriend reared its head and jumped right into action. “I know.”

  Ryan squeezed my arm. “Okay. Maybe we should get in the shower. I want to have breakfast with everyone before I have to leave.” He buried his face in my neck. “Fuck, this is going to be a long day.”

  The thought of having to move from this entangled position made me groan. I nuzzled in deeper, holding his head to my shoulder. “I’m too comfortable. Can’t we just stay stuck to each other instead?”

  Ryan growled, palming my ass. “Oh, that is so tempting.”

  I let out a small sigh, knowing that the incredibly famous Ryan Christensen had an insane schedule ahead of him, jam-packed with one appearance and interview after another promoting the premiere of his latest movie, Reparation. He’d only been in L.A. one day more than me and he’d already been on several magazine shoots and a photo call.

  My pulse skipped, thinking that in a few short days we’d be on numerous planes destined for places like London and Paris—cities I’d never been to before. But as enticing as touring Europe sounded, I was perfectly content wrapped in his arms and going nowhere.

  “Call in sick,” I whispered. “You lie and I’ll swear to it.”

  His chest shook with laughter. “David, cancel everything. My gorgeous fiancée is glued to my body and I have absolutely no desire to put on pants—ever.”

  I couldn’t help but laugh with him.

  Ryan coiled a long strand of my hair around his finger. “Believe me, if my schedule wasn’t so tight, we’d be naked for days, weeks even.”

  I dug my fingertips into his tight rear end, lost in the sensations of his warmth, his strength. “Then maybe we’ll have to block off a month or two of downtime? I think after all of the stress we deserve it.”

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