A Hollywood Bride(Billionaires' Brides of Convenience #2)

By: Nadia Lee

Chapter One



Ryder

Paige refuses to have me in the room with her, insisting I stay outside. Does she blame me for what happened? I’m sure her fall had something to do with the bleeding. I can’t think of any other reason she’d have issues, because up to that point she’d been thriving as a pregnant woman, glowing and happy. Not even any morning sickness.

If I hadn’t rushed in at the club, Anthony wouldn’t have pushed her. And so she wouldn’t have fallen… I rub my face, then find a waiting room. A worn poster on the wall cites the dangers of cell phone use inside the hospital, something about how mobile devices interfere with medical equipment. I turn mine off. I don’t want anything to mess with the care Paige is getting, but not having something to distract myself with is painful. There are so many ugly thoughts and possibilities going through my mind…and the atmosphere here doesn’t help.

There’s a difference between movie hospitals and real hospitals. Movie hospital sets smell normal. They don’t give you that reflexive recoil in the deepest part of your heart. Real hospitals are the opposite. Decades of accumulated anxiety, misery, illness, and despair have settled in thick layers that no amount of chlorine can erase.

I park my butt in a molded plastic chair designed to be both uncomfortable and ugly and pull my baseball cap down. A large pair of dark sunglasses covers most of my face, but it’s my busted lip that seems to be making people hesitant to assume I am who I am—Ryder Reed, one of the hottest movie stars in Hollywood. I’ve done some action flicks, but I’ve never gotten into a public fistfight.

Still, curious gazes slide over me. I ignore them. I like to engage with the public and my fans—actors are mostly extroverts—but only on my own terms, and certainly not in some dingy ER waiting room.

The clock on the wall ticks interminably, and my eyes gradually become gritty and unfocused. And my ass is getting numb. Damn it, how long does it take to see if Paige’s all right? I guess the doctors want to be thorough and run all the appropriate tests.

Unless… Nausea roils in my belly. Unless the unthinkable has happened.

“Hey, are you that movie star?”

The boyish voice startles me out of my reverie. A child who looks like an animated marshmallow stands in front of me. A dingy white t-shirt and faded jeans don’t improve his appearance. He’s short enough that even seated my upper stomach is at his eye level. He’s five…maybe six.

“My brother said you are,” the boy adds, when I don’t respond.

Another boy joins him. He looks like the first, except slightly bigger and rounder and whiter. He’s so pale he practically glows under the neon lighting.

He pokes the smaller boy. “Told ya, dumbass. That’s Ryder Reed.”

“Did you get into a fight?” the younger boy asks, widening his eyes.

The older boy is entirely too gleeful. “Of course, he did. Look at his mouth. Bam!” he shouts as he makes a punching motion.

He’s drawing attention to me, and I grimace. Where the hell is his mother?

The bigger one points at my mouth. “He’s here to get treated for that lip.”

“Who did you fight?” the younger boy asks.

The older boy says, “It’s gotta be that girl.”

“What girl?”

“The fat one. She came in all bloody.”

As ridiculous as their conversation is, the muscles in my face start to tighten. This is how rumors start, and I need to put an end to the bullshit right now. “It wasn’t the girl. I do not hit women.”

“That’s not true.” The older boy sniffs disdainfully, his mouth set in a knowing sneer that seems wrong on such a young face. “I watched Lethal Connection. You fought that chick, then punched her and stuff. Man, that was so awesome! The bitch went down!”

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