About the Author
Tina Reber got her first library card at the age of four and, as the daughter of a small town librarian, books have always held a special place in her life. She lives in a suburb of Allentown, Pennsylvania with her husband and son who allow her to slip away into fictional worlds on a daily basis. Visit TinaReber.com.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Love Unrehearsed 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 for 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 side 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.”
Ryan pressed me back into my pillow. “Let’s make that a priority.” His glorious smile suddenly faded, turning from light and playful to serious. “You are the most important thing to me, Taryn. I hope you know that.” His thumb stroked my cheek repeatedly. His eyes grew tender, then repentant. “I know the last few weeks have been rough.”
Rough? That was putting it mildly. Testing my will to survive massive heartache would be more accurate. I moved my left arm out from between us, rotating my wrist. It was starting to ache from being bent awkwardly underneath him. Sometimes it still felt like I was wearing a cast, even though it had been off for almost two weeks.
Ryan grimaced. “Does it still hurt?”
I shrugged. “It gets sore. Stiff, sometimes.”
His eyes narrowed as he worked on some other thought. His hand softly stroked down my stomach. “Have you . . . have you seen the OB doctor since . . . ?”
I nodded. “Last week. Marie went with me.”
Ryan’s jaw tightened and flexed. He appeared upset about it.
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
I couldn’t believe he was asking me this—with a clipped tone to boot. Last week he was wrapping filming on Thousand Miles and apparently still contemplating his feelings for me because we sure as hell weren’t having heartfelt conversations.
He nudged me for a response.
I met his eyes. “What kind of answer are you looking for?” I asked softly. “We were barely speaking to each other last week, Ryan. I didn’t think you cared anymore. I was waiting for you to tell me we were over.”
He grasped my left hand, kissing my fingers around my sparkly new engagement ring. “Oh, sweetheart . . . I’m sorry. I know I really fucked up. Things were just . . . and I was mad. Shit.”
I brushed my hand on his cheek. “We both did.”
Ryan frowned, leaning his face into my hand. “Please tell me now. What did the doctor have to say?”
“She said everything is back to normal. She renewed my birth control. I go back in a year unless I have issues.”
Apparently he was holding his breath because it all came out of him at once. “Okay. Good.” He scrubbed his forehead with his hand, pushing his bangs up. “Man, I don’t even know how to go about making this up to you. I know I hurt you. Believe me, I know. But I’m going to spend the rest of my life making it up to you. I promise.”
I swallowed hard, knowing my actions and knee-jerk reactions were what caused us to almost break up. “It’s my fault. I’m sorry for losing faith in you.”
His shoulder rose and fell as he gazed at me. “I think we both learned a hard lesson—one that we can hopefully move on from and be stronger from.”
I nodded, done with the heaviness. “I like the idea of going away somewhere. Just the two of us.”
That perked him up and with that, his tense face softened. “Let’s take a look at my calendar and schedule some vacations. We can go anywhere you want, baby. Anywhere.”
With a tilt of his head, his lips found mine. So tender, so loving. We lay there for a long time, naked bodies entwined, eyes gazing into one another, sharing whispered “I love yous.”
God he was beautiful, all naked with his broad shoulders and muscular arms wrapped around me. His hair messed from peaceful sleep.
As much as I try to never think about it, I couldn’t help but feel a bit smug, knowing most of his fans would willingly give up a limb, a family member, and a kidney to see him this exposed. Sorry, ladies. Hate to break it to ya, but he’s all mine.
Hungry for him, I trailed open-mouth kisses down his hard body, barraging him with a mixture of sensations; scoring fingernails over his pecs, soft bites over the muscular swells of his stomach, the soothing wetness of my roaming tongue.
Ryan’s eyes scrunched together and he melted back into the pillows when I slipped my wet lips and tongue around the length of him. Our time together was limited so I was going to make every second count.
“Oh, Tar,” he whispered out, tensing from the onslaught. His fin...
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