Kit smiled when the elevator doors opened as soon as she pressed the button. Stepping in with a thudding heart, she fought the urge to flat out grin. She was going to see Noah again! She hadn’t made the concert despite her best efforts, but she knew he wouldn’t mind. Noah had been her biggest supporter during her struggle to move from daytime-soap actress to the big screen.
Now she’d won a part in Last Flight, a movie based on a heartrending book set in the war-torn Congo. It had such a small budget that the wardrobe department was made up of clothes the actors and crew had brought in, but she could already tell the movie was going to be a stunning emotional journey. Though the Last Flight team hadn’t been able to get permission to shoot at the location itself, they’d all soon be departing for another part of Africa that would stand in for the Congo in the location shots.
That trip would swallow up the majority of the budget.
Before that, the filmmakers were trying to shoot as many of the interior scenes as possible in as short a time as possible. The schedule was grueling, but Kit was in it for the long haul. Not only did she love the script, this movie might finally earn her the title of serious actress. For a woman who’d spent her entire career fighting not to be dismissed as a rich girl dabbling in the art, that meant everything.
After cleaning off the on-set makeup she’d worn today to affect a gaunt, ill look, she’d put on her moisturizer, then added just a touch of mascara and a light lip gloss. Noah had seen her without her “face” on many times, and he liked her just fine. With him, she could be herself, no shield of glamour required.
In return, rock star Noah St. John was just Noah with her, that smile he saved for her lighting up the dark gray of his eyes as he teased her by calling her Katie. It was a little crooked, his private smile, and more than a bit wicked. Gorgeous already, that smile made him irresistible. And it was for her, just for her.
She hugged that knowledge to her heart.
The elevator doors opened on the VIP floor.
She wouldn’t have been able to get up here without a special key card, but Noah had cleared her with the hotel staff as he always did. The man at the desk tonight had been very discreet, slipping her the card and the number of Noah’s room in an envelope. Kit knew she and Noah would be found out one day soon—someone would sell a story to the press or just trust the wrong person with the information. But for now, the two of them could be private, could learn one another without the glare of intrusion that was the eye of the paparazzi lens.
It helped that she didn’t have much of a profile. Noah’s was in the stratosphere, of course, but he was also known to like women, so even if the paps scented the news, they likely wouldn’t rush to hunt down the story. She was just another woman in a long line to be linked to Noah.
Kit’s stomach dipped, smile fading as she walked down the corridor.
She’d known the members of Schoolboy Choir since the first week the band—young and broke and in stubborn pursuit of their dream—arrived in Los Angeles. She’d been waitressing at the time, determined to support herself and to break into the business on her own. Her folks had thought she was taking independence too far, but it had been important to Kit that she not ride on their coattails. She’d even taken the stage name of Devigny rather than using the well-known and distinctive Ordaz-Castille moniker.
Noah, Fox, Abe, and David had come into the diner late one night while she was the only one on duty. At first she’d been wary: fresh off a construction job, they’d been dirty and dusty and frankly rough-looking. But then she’d realized the four were composing a song together, one of them drumming his fingertips on top of the table while another one sang softly, with interruptions from the others about cadence and rhythm.
Smiling as she realized they were just like her, striving to make it, she’d told the group they didn’t have to be quiet since it was only the five of them in the diner. They’d grinned and asked her to be their audience, and she’d found herself listening to what would eventually become the group’s second number one single.
Fox, Abe, and David she’d gotten along with from the start.
Everything was too intense between her and Noah, too bright and sharp and demanding. She might’ve given in to the raw heat that shimmered in the air whenever they were close to one another except that Noah changed women like other men changed T-shirts. In for a night, gone the next.
Five months ago, things had… changed. Kit and Noah had become friends, and though they’d never so much as kissed, their relationship was the most intimate one she’d ever had. Her heart ached with missing him when they were apart. He knew her dreams and she was starting to glimpse his, and they were slowly, beautifully, making their way from friendship to love.
Maybe tonight they would finally share their first kiss.
Her blood pounded at the memory of how close they’d come last time. She’d been able to count each one of his eyelashes, feel his breath against her skin, see the staccato beat of the pulse in his neck. A single inch and their lips would’ve touched.
She might explode when that happened, she was so ready.
Taking a deep breath as she reached his door, she didn’t knock. He’d told her to just walk in; the last time she’d knocked, he’d still been in the shower, cleaning up after the show, and she’d ended up going in on her own anyway. Kit felt her silly, goofy smile break through her self-control as she tapped the key card on the doorknob to open it.
When the door stayed locked, she looked down.
“Idiot,” she muttered, realizing she had to insert the card at this hotel. “You’d think you were fifteen and about to meet your crush alone for the first time.”
Except that was exactly how she felt. Happy and excited and bubbling with love. Never had she felt this way about a man. She could see the promise of forever in Noah’s eyes, and it captured her heart, her soul, held it prisoner.
Chest tight with the emotions inside her, she pushed the door open. Music filtered out, low and lazy. Her smile grew deeper. There was always music around Noah. Even when he was reading a book, he’d told her he had music on in the background.
“It’s like another heartbeat,” he’d said to her once. “I miss it when it’s not there, even though I might not consciously notice it when it’s present.”
That made so much sense to her, gave her another insight into his mind.
About to call out his name as she stepped into the living area of the suite, something made her stop, dread coalescing into a dark and viscous intruder in her gut. The lights were on, the music was on, and she could see the remnants of a room service tray, so Noah was around, but…
That was when she saw what her subconscious had already noted and processed.
A high-heeled shoe lay on the carpet by the room service tray. The shoe glittered under the lights, sparkly gold with a four-inch stiletto heel.
At that instant, it felt as if that heel were embedded in Kit’s chest, the pain of it burning and burning. She knew she should turn around and leave, but she couldn’t. She had to know, had to be sure. Noah meant too much for her to make a mistake or to have doubts.
Heart squeezing and lungs barely drawing in enough air to keep her from passing out, she made herself walk across the floor to the open bedroom door. And as she walked, she saw the other shoe by that door, along with a knot of black cotton that was a T-shirt flung off without care to where it landed.
Fingers curling into a fist, she brought it to her mouth, trying to plug the agony that was churning inside her, keep it from erupting into a scream that would never end.
Then her eyes landed on the glittery pile of sequined fabric that might have been a dress, and the agony twisted.
Keeping her gorge down only because she refused to crumple, not here, not where he could see her, she took the final step to the door.
Her heart just… broke.
Noah was on the bed, beautiful as always, his golden-blond hair falling over his forehead and his back muscles bunched beneath his tattoos as he braced himself on his arms above a woman whose face Kit couldn’t see but whose breasts sat large and high on her chest.
The sheet hid Noah’s lower body, but there was no mistaking what he was doing, his hips moving in a distinctive, unmistakable motion. He was beautiful even in that, a part of her noted, like music given physical form.
The thought made her want to laugh, and she knew she was a second away from hysteria.
Noah looked up at that instant, his eyes meeting hers across the room, and everything in her froze, went numb, the shards of her splintered heart stabbing her from the inside out.