The Path to You - Carrie Ann Ryan
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The Path to You

Book 3 in the Wilder Brothers Series
Special Edition

The Wilder Brothers from NYT Bestselling Author Carrie Ann Ryan continues with a second chance romance that brings Everett Wilder to his knees.

The moment I saw Bethany Cole, I knew she was not only out of my league, but in a whole different world.

Only I didn’t realize I’d met her before.

An explosion stole part of my past, including the first time I’d seen her pretty face.

Now she’s an A-list celebrity.

And I’m just a Wilder.

But when her boyfriend cheats on her, Bethany needs a safe place to hide from the paparazzi.

The Wilder’s Retreat seems like the perfect escape.

Only every time we see each other it’s hard to remember we come from two different worlds.

And that the danger that follows her is only the beginning.

read an excerpt

The Path to You Characters Profiles

The Path to You

“You monster! You think I’m the one that broke everything? You’re the one that stands out on your balcony over the world you think you’ve created. You have used the blood, sweat, and tears of those you hate in order to get where you are. And yet I’m the monster for turning you in? Why can’t you look in the mirror and see who the true horror is?”

The man turned to me, his eyes narrowed, death in his gaze. “I wouldn’t look in the mirror. I just have to kill you, and there will be nothing left to stand in my way.”

He moved towards me, hands outstretched, but I stood my ground, knowing I was stronger than him. Even if it broke me.

“Cut!” the director called out, and I rolled my shoulders back and smiled up at Jackson.

“How did that feel?” I asked, and he ran his hand over his mouth, his dark gaze softening, that stern jaw melting into a wicked smile.

“It feels like we got it, but let’s see what the director says.”

We turned to Sanchez, who stared at his notes in front of him and nodded. “That’s good enough for today. Decent job, both of you.”

Then he turned on his heel and walked out with the writer at his side, both of them mumbling something to the other. The dozens of other people on set moved as a unit, each with a particular job, just like they’d done a thousand times before.

I looked over at Jackson and held back a smile.

A decent job in Sanchez’s eyes was Oscar-worthy in anyone else’s. I counted that as a blessing, considering the man didn’t know how to give praise and was never happy. I liked working with him but was glad I had only one more day of shooting. This film had been exhausting, with the training, stunts, last-minute changes to the script, and constant worry over outside forces I couldn’t control.

But I was already proud of the work I’d done.

That was what I did.

I was Bethany Cole, Golden Globe, Emmy, and SAG award-winning actress, who also happened to be the lead in an upcoming superhero film.

My lips twitched as I thought about it. I listened to Jackson as he went over notes for the day.

“You still have another week?” I asked, looking over at my costar and leading man.

He nodded. “I do. I can’t wait get home to Max and the kids. This has been a long shoot, and since our oldest is starting kindergarten, we didn’t want them to travel as much once the school year started. It’s been a little weird doing nearly an entire movie without them in my trailer during the day waiting for me to finish.”

“So, they flew back up to Idaho?” I asked.

Jackson nodded. “Yes, I thought I mentioned that.” He frowned. “Didn’t I?”

I shook my head. “No, you just said at home. But I understand. The kids have a better chance of a normal life up there, with good schools, rather than living that LA life.”

“Tell me about it. We’re going to try this and see how it goes. My schedule isn’t as busy as it once was. I know that some actors call that the death knell, but to me, it just means I did something right in my past so that I can look to my future.” He let out a breath and rolled his shoulders back. He was no longer the Devil of Manhattan but instead an Oscar-award-winning actor who was finally settling down with his husband of five years and their two children. He was kinder than the man he’d been portraying for the past few weeks—a murderer on a killing spree.

I liked Jackson; he was one of the most brilliant actors of our generation. I was only a little jealous that he seemed to have his life in order when I was still scrambling to figure out mine. Even if the headlines thought I was well on my way into that celebrity future of stardom, multiple Oscars, and marriage with another leading man.

That reminded me, that I needed to text Dallas and tell him I would be on my way home soon, but maybe I would just do it later. It wasn’t like we lived together. I could see him tomorrow. I’d been up early, and it had been a long day. I wanted to take a bath, have a glass of wine, and go over my next script. I had a months-long break before I had to start my next movie, and I could perhaps fit in something else, depending on what my agent thought. I wasn’t sure I could take a break. Because if I did, Hollywood could forget about me. They tended to do that pretty quickly when you were heading to your dotage.

And considering I was twenty-five, I was well on my way to being ancient in this business.

I wasn’t a fan of where my thoughts had turned, so I pushed those from my mind.

I went back to my trailer, laughed with my team and makeup artists as we changed me from the strong, competent, and slightly insane character I was playing back into just Bethany.

I pulled my hair back into a messy bun, slid on oversized sunglasses, and stared at the white T-shirt and skinny jeans I wore.

“Not too bad after a long day,” I said after a moment.

My assistant, Tonya, smiled. “Not bad at all. Do you want me to order you dinner and call Trace and the driver?”

Trace was my head of security, and we made a good team.

“No, I’m fine. I’m heading home. I’ll see you tomorrow for the last day, though. And I know we have a few things to do before you get a break.”

Tonya rolled her eyes. “We both know that neither of us knows how to take breaks.”

“That is true.” I laughed and headed out to my car. I made the drive home, a little tired and grateful for the iced coffee that Tonya had got for me so I wouldn’t have to head to the busy coffee shop on the corner. I liked doing things on my own, but since people knew precisely where we were shooting, it was filled with paparazzi and people who wanted my time. I loved my fans and would do anything for them, but I also needed a minute to breathe after a long day of filming, especially when it was as emotional as today had been.

I lived a little over an hour from where the shoot was taking place, though sometimes with traffic it turned into three hours. Those days it was a hassle, so I was grateful that it only took an hour and a half to get home. I could have used the studio-assigned driver, but I just wanted time alone. I couldn’t wait to take the night off just to breathe, and then I could read some scripts and get ready for those two large back-to-back movies that I had that would take a lot out of me emotionally and physically. Maybe I would take a break as my agent suggested, or maybe I would find an indie project in the middle. I didn’t know, but I would figure out something. Right before this movie started, I had taken a three-week trip to work with my favorite charities, so maybe I would return to that—one where I didn’t have cameras in my face, documenting everything that I did.

I was blessed with my job, with the work that I was getting, with the praise from my fellow actors and industry professionals. But I always knew I had to give back.

After all, I was only here because of state scholarships and charities when I was younger, barely able to make it through the day after losing my mom, then my dad.

I pulled in past the security station of the neighborhood, waved at Tom, the guard on duty, and headed towards my house on the back lot. I hadn’t always lived in a place like this. The necessary security and high walls. I wasn’t an LA girl by birth or even by choice really.

But after my fourth movie had broken records and people had started to know my name, I needed to keep people away from my home.

Having that kind woman break into my bathroom, just to say hello to me and make sure that I was using the right shampoo for my hair, scared me enough to spend the money on a larger house. Apparently, it was just the way it was in my new life, but sometimes I missed my shabby apartment with four deadbolts and a rickety window.

I pulled into my garage and noticed that Dallas’s car was also parked in my guest spot.

That didn’t mean he was here. He had multiple cars and a driver with his producer’s car service. He rarely drove these days unless he wanted to show off one of his beauties, preferring to sit in the back and have people drive him about. I wasn’t a huge fan of driving myself, especially in LA traffic, but after a long day when I was the focus of everybody’s attention, I wanted to be alone. Hence driving myself home.

I hadn’t thought Dallas would be here today, and I wasn’t sure I was up to dealing with my boyfriend.

That thought made me pause. Dallas was my boyfriend. Our agents had set us up because of publicity, but then we had truly started to date. Most of the world thought we were well on our way to being married, and half of them thought I was already pregnant.

Mainly because, God forbid, I didn’t starve myself like they wanted me to. I dealt with the constant articles on my weight, my health, and my love life. I just wanted some time alone today and wasn’t in the mood to deal with Dallas and his moods. And he was always in a mood. Considering that he was about to start a major superhero movie alongside me, he was living his best life. People were coming to him now instead of him going to them. He wanted the accolades I had, and more. He deserved them, he was a great actor, but he was also lazy, egotistical, and that bothered me.

I rubbed my temple, wondering why I was even still dating him.

I loved him.

And he was stressed, and I could live through that as long as we had each other.

Noise from the TV sounded from my office, and I frowned, wondering why Dallas was in there. He liked being in there sometimes to look at my awards. My manager had built an entire shelf to house them, doing his best not to leave a space for an Oscar. One did not leave room for awards. One made space for them after, especially if you wanted to make sure that you didn’t jinx yourself.

While I was proud of my accomplishments, I also wasn’t sure I liked looking at them every time I was in there because the pressure and memories from each one compounded on each other.

Dallas was here, maybe he would want to make a nice dinner at home. We could just relax.

Dallas was good at relaxing.

“Yes, right there. Do it. Yes. Harder. You know what I like, baby.”

I frowned, tension shooting up my spine as that voice hit my ears. I knew that voice.

Maybe I was just imagining things.

Because I didn’t think it was coming from the TV anymore.

When I turned towards my office, the scripts in my hands dropped to the floor. I stared as my boyfriend, Dallas Huntington, railed his mediocre cock into Cassandra Fox, the media’s darling and my rival, at least according to the tabloids.

Neither of them saw me, both angled so that they were facing each other, all their attention on one another as he continued fucking her on top of my desk. My awards shone behind her, the light on in the cabinet, so it looked like she was surrounded by a halo of trophies.

She arched her head back, her perfect round breasts bouncing with each thrust.

Dallas groaned, flexing his ass, one that he worked on for countless hours to keep toned, as he banged the woman I truly hated in my office.

“Are you kidding me?” I asked, my voice sharper than I intended. I hadn’t meant to say anything because I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to say.

Dallas continued to move, thrusting harder, as he looked over his shoulder and winked. “Be right with you, baby.”

“Excuse me?” I marched forward and turned off the light behind them, shaking my head. “There’s no need to waste electricity. I’m not sure why you are fucking in front of my bookshelf in my office anyway.”

I didn’t know why I was making a big deal about that.

Because he was still deep inside her, both of them now frozen.

Cassandra pouted, then slid her hand over her clit. “You are such a bitch. I was almost done, Bethany. Hell.”

Dallas sighed, then pulled out of her, and I added getting myself checked out to the list because he wasn’t wearing a condom. I visibly shuddered, then glared at the two of them.

“Are you kidding me right now?” I asked again. Because if I kept worrying about my office, its cleanliness, anything else, I wouldn’t feel that step off the trail as it stabbed into me repeatedly. As my life felt like nothing made sense, and I wanted to scream or throw up, I wondered why he was cheating on me. In my own house. In my office.

“Stop making a big deal,” Cassandra waved it off as she hopped off the desk with her perfect athletic grace and slid her dress back on.

Dallas rolled his eyes and stuffed himself back into his pants. “Why are you freaking out? What the hell is wrong with you?”

“Why am I freaking out.” I said very calmly. As calmly as I could make it. “Because you were screwing another woman in my house, in my office. How long has this been going on? What do you think you were doing?”

“Oh, stop it, Bethany. You knew he was with me, too. You know the tabloids love putting us against each other. I’ve been against Dallas this whole time.” As she said it, she winked as if she was making a joke.

I just stood there, slack-jawed, anger and hurt rolling over me. “You were cheating on me. This whole time?”

“It’s not cheating if it’s a full relationship,” Dallas said.

He was delusional. “No. That’s not how any of this works. Get the fuck out of my house.”

“Whatever. I was done anyway. Not with you, baby,” he swooned over to Cassandra. Then he looked at me. “You’re never a good lay. Honestly, it was fun while it lasted, but I’m tired now. Dealing with you and your drama is just exhausting. So, it’s over.”

“Do you think you’re the one breaking up with me? Because no, that’s not how this is going to work. You’re cheating on me, so you get out of my house. It’s over.”

“Whatever you say, baby. Just know if you bring this out to the press, I’ll crucify you.”

I froze, my mind whirling in a thousand different directions as I tried to keep up. “Excuse me?”

“I know things about you, darling. Things that would make anyone’s skin crawl. You think you’re Hollywood’s darling? I don’t think so. They’re going to know the real you. So, if you say anything about me? Anything about us, about Cassandra? I’ll ruin you. You’re just so you. A woman that’s reached her peak. Past her prime. You’re old, and soon the scripts are going to stop coming for you. They only want you now because they can use you. Just like I did. You are one bad tabloid away from nothing. Remember that, because I’ll have forever in this business. You’re just a woman. So don’t mess with me.”

He pushed past me, elbowing me in the gut as he did so, and I whirled, ready to lash out, but Cassandra stood there, phone in her hand.

“Do it. Hit him because I’m the one that’s going to win here. I always do.”

Then she winked, whirled on her high heels, and sauntered out of my house, as if she hadn’t just been banging my boyfriend in my office.

I pulled out my phone, my eyes wide as my heart raced. There was a metallic taste in my mouth, and I told myself I needed to stop panicking. I need to be calm about this.

Because everything just got messy. So damn messy.

Trace picked up on the first ring. “I think something bad just happened.”

And that was the understatement of understatements.

* * *

Word of the breakup leaked three days after I found them in my office. I finished filming, Jackson flew back home to Idaho, and I tried to pretend that everything was okay. Trace, my agent, manager, assistant, and the rest of the team knew that the storm would come, and we did our best to weather it.

We had tried the joint statement because my agent was killer and forced Dallas to do it. We said we had parted ways amicably and needed space.

Only Dallas wasn’t like anyone else.

The paparazzi loved him.

I was just the bitter woman, after all. Not that they knew he had cheated. Because the world didn’t need to know, they didn’t know that I had been sucker-punched. But I’d been so stupid to think that Dallas could ever love me.

The world didn’t need to know the truth because, no matter what, I would be the bad guy. I would either be too old, not good enough, or too good, a whore, or something else.

Dallas could do no wrong, and I was the one the paparazzi chased.

I tried to head to my agent’s office, but the paparazzi and others who loved Dallas blocked the way.

Because, of course, I had been the one to break us up. Some believe that he had dumped me, but most assumed I thought I was too good for him. So, I was the one that “broke his heart” as he tried to rally his emotions.

That’s the way the media twisted, no matter what my team did.

Dallas and that cruel smile of his were just better at the game.

The next day I tried to get groceries, going as incognito as possible, but cameras and Dallas’s fan club blocked me.

So, I sat inside my house, the media camped outside the neighborhood, some even breaking through security to be outside my door.

“Am I going to lose this job?” I asked, my hand shaking with nerves.

My manager sighed on the other end of the line. “No, you’re not. They still want you, but they need a little space from this incident. You need a break, just like you planned.”

I swallowed hard. “I didn’t do anything wrong. He was cheating on me.”

“He was. But he’s also a man that can do no wrong. You know the way things work. The only way we could win here is if we twisted it so he’s the bad guy, but then you’re still the shrew who went after him or not good enough.” I sputtered, and she continued. “You know I don’t believe that. You know I believe in your privacy. And I’m doing all that I can, but maybe you should leave LA for a bit. Go somewhere. Relax. You know what you need to do. Just breathe. You have two hard shoots coming up soon. Use this time to regroup like we planned.”

“But then I’m just running with my tail between my legs.”

“You’re saving your sanity. Let me deal with Dallas out here.”

I bit my lip. All I wanted to do was call my best friend to hear her advice, but she was out of the country, in a different time zone, probably on stage right now singing to thousands. We had spoken the day before, and she had threatened to fly out here and save me, but I didn’t want to worry her.

I didn’t want to worry anyone.

I thought about the last place I had been relaxed, even though I’d held a worry in my gut. I picked up the phone and made the plans.

I would run, I would save myself, and I would figure out what to do.

Because here wasn’t working, and once again, I wasn’t good enough.

And I had the entire city to remind me.

* * *

I pulled into Wilder Retreat and Winery, a resort I had been to for a wedding. It had been calm, soothing, and just what I needed.

There were questions that I needed answers to hear as well.

Eli Wilder stood at the entrance, hands in his jeans pockets as he waited for me. I swallowed hard and got out of the black sedan that I’d taken from the airport.

“Bethany, I would say it’s good to see you, but from what I can tell, maybe not.”

My lips twitched, and I tried to hold back tears. Why was I going to cry with this stranger? It didn’t make any sense. I didn’t even know the Wilders. This place had been the first that came to mind and I didn’t know why.

Then again, maybe I did.

“It’s been an eventful couple of weeks.” I shrugged as I went to pull out my suitcases from the car. Eli waved me off as the Wilder team and my driver moved my things around.

“We’ll get you set up at the cabin. Don’t you worry.”

I gave him a wobbly smile, glad I still had my dark sunglasses on, and rolled my shoulders back.

I was Bethany Cole. I could act my way out of a paper bag. The world didn’t need to see how I felt.

“Thank you for having me on such short notice. I truly appreciate it.”

“We’ve got you, Bethany. Now come on, let’s get you relaxed.”

I nodded and followed him, knowing I wasn’t going to relax, not just yet.

I might be running from things I couldn’t change, but there was one thing I could change here.

One person that I was going to confront.

Because I couldn’t do anything about Dallas.

I could do something about Everett Wilder.

It was about time I did.

end of excerpt

The Path to You

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Content Warning:

None of these were done by main characters or future/past characters: Stalking, violence, revenge porn, drug use, battle, death.