Kit arrived at Zenith around three that day to find it already buzzing. Fans had set up multicolored tents as far as the eye could see, and the food trucks that lined the area were doing a brisk business. Everyone seemed in a cheerful mood, and though the live music hadn’t yet started, people were singing among themselves.
Having been driven around to the back, she stepped out and looked for a familiar face. Molly had told Kit to give her a call if she couldn’t spot the crew, but right then she saw Maxwell, his black Schoolboy Choir T-shirt tucked over his beer gut and into his jeans as per usual. However, not as per usual was the busty blonde snuggled to his side.
They kissed as Kit watched, not sure quite what she was seeing. Maxwell was very married and had always seemed crazy for his wife, with whom he had two teenage boys. Kit wasn’t sure she could handle Maxwell cheating. It would be like losing a sacred touchstone that told her some people did make it.
The crew chief looked up and noticed her just as she was wondering if she should head in the other direction. Beaming, he came over, one arm around the shapely woman who was dressed in thigh-high boots over skinny jeans teamed with a black leather jacket and a fitted Schoolboy Choir T-shirt. Unlike Maxwell’s, the woman’s tee had a scoop neck that exposed impressive cleavage.
“I heard you were coming in this afternoon.” Maxwell kissed Kit on the cheek with the ease of long familiarity, his salt-and-pepper beard ticklish. “I don’t think you’ve ever met my wife, have you?”
Oh. Smiling as relief kicked her in the ribs, Kit held out a hand. “It’s great to finally meet you. Kim, right?”
“Yes.” A warm, big-hearted smile. “You were the best part of Primrose Avenue.”
Kit’s own smile deepened at hearing the name of the soap that had been her first long-term gig. “Thank you.” Yes, Primrose Avenue had been a bit of a millstone around her neck when she wanted to transition into the movies, but it was a good show for what it was, and she’d enjoyed working on it. “Are you here for the whole festival?”
“Yes. Our boys are out front in a tent, and we’re under strict instructions not to so much as look in their direction the entire weekend,” Kim said, her voice reminding Kit of Adreina’s. “Maxwell may have street cred because he works with the band, but according to our youngest, it’s ‘total loser zone’ to have your parents attend the same festival as you.”
Kit laughed at how well the other woman mimicked her son’s no doubt disgusted tone. “I’m here till Sunday too,” she said. “Maybe we can talk more.”
“I’d like that.”
Maxwell dropped a kiss on his wife’s head, so obviously in love it was adorable. “You looking for Molly or for Noah?”
“Molly.” Kit felt light-headed at the thought of being shut inside a bus with Noah. “I figured she could show me the ropes.”
“She’s in her and Fox’s bus.” Maxwell jerked a thumb toward the buses Kit could see parked not far away. “Fox is with David, so you girls can chat without interruption.”
Kit didn’t take him to task for calling her a girl. He called Schoolboy Choir his boys. No one argued. “Thanks.” Leaving Casey to deal with the car, her luggage to be stored in the trunk until later, she let Butch walk her to the bus.
“I’ll be fine if you and Casey want to go get a bite or something,” she said to the bodyguard. “I’ll probably talk to Molly for a bit, then find Noah.”
Butch didn’t look convinced. “This would be a great place to snatch you if the creep’s here, and thanks to all the publicity about you and Noah, he probably is. I’ll stay until Noah’s with you.”
“Okay,” Kit replied. “You’re the expert.” Part of the reason she’d hired Butch despite the fact she couldn’t really afford him was that he was so damn good at his job. Leaving him to stand watch, she knocked on the bus door. Molly opened it a second later and, crying out, engulfed Kit in a warm Molly hug. “You’re here! I thought you wouldn’t make it till five. Come in!”
It was the first time Kit had been in one of the band’s buses, and she was surprised to see that it was relatively roomy. “Nice living area.” She put her handbag on the small counter that fronted a compact utility kitchenette tucked into a corner.
“It works,” Molly said cheerfully. “Want a tour? It’ll take like thirty seconds.”
“This is my study.” Molly pointed out a cute little desk and chair positioned in one corner of the living area, almost but not quite directly opposite from the sofa. That sofa was angled so that it faced the television screen hung on the same wall against which sat Molly’s desk.
“The facilities.” Molly took her through to the very back of the bus. “Shower’s not too bad, actually. Tiny, but that can be fun.” A wicked grin.
“I think living with Fox is a bad influence on you.”
Laughing, Molly slid aside the door to the bedroom. The bed within was neatly made up with pretty white-on-white sheets and fluffy pillows; the high windows along two sides let in light while preserving Molly and Fox’s privacy.
“The windows are reflective,” Molly told her. “We’re kind of paranoid.”
“Don’t blame you.” Kit wrapped an arm around the other woman’s shoulders, still angry on her and Fox’s behalf after the ugly invasion of privacy that had happened during the band’s tour.
Slipping an arm around Kit’s waist, Molly hugged her back. “I’m good, promise,” she said before she broke the hug to show Kit the built-in closet. “Helps to know the pathetic creep who recorded us is behind bars.” A glance at Kit. “Speaking of which, the cops have any luck with the stalker?”
Kit shook her head and took a seat on the bed. “I’m still getting letters and cards.”
“Damn. I was hoping he’d have fallen off a cliff and disappeared by now.” Molly sat with her, folding up her legs. “How are you doing?”
“Fine—really.” Kit reassured the other woman. “The stuff he’s been sending in is relatively vitriol-free for him, but it could be that he’s stewing and waiting to make his move.” Anger had her clenching her hands on the edge of the bed. “I’ve been photographed with both Terrence and Noah lately, and the police psychologist is worried that could push him over the edge.”
The police team kept in regular touch with her, the men and women who dealt with celebrity-stalking cases having seen the sometimes-fatal results firsthand. No one was taking this lightly, especially given how far the stalker had already gone by breaking and entering. “When I say it’s less hateful stuff, I’m comparing it to the more abusive messages, but his current letters, even the present he sent a month back, it’s still creepily possessive and jealous.”
She shuddered. “He sent me a fine gold chain with a small locket, said he’d ‘noticed I wasn’t wearing my favorite necklace’ in photos and he was worried I’d lost it.” Kit touched the bare skin of her throat. “The creepy thing is that I did lose it—while shooting the superhero movie.”
Molly’s eyes widened. “You think he stole it?”
“I can’t imagine how—there’ve been no other signs that he can get on set. Nothing else stolen or missing, no psycho messages.” The hairs rose on the back of her neck at even the faint possibility that he might be one of her colleagues.
“I think he really does just notice even such tiny things about me, and the way he talks, it’s like we’re intimate.” Oddly, it wasn’t the sexual messages that creeped her out the most. Those always seemed like he was trying too hard. “He says things like how we’re meant to be together, how no one will ever understand me like he does, how he’s the only one I can trust with my secrets.”
Molly shivered. “It’s like he wants to put you in a box and keep you.”
“Yes, that’s it exactly.” Kit rubbed her hands up and down her arms.
“I don’t know if Noah had a chance to tell you,” Molly said, “but the band hired extra security. Plus the entire crew knows to be on the lookout for anyone acting suspiciously.”
Cold wiped out by the warmth of knowing she was among friends, Kit fell back on the bed. “Thank you.” Such small words to hold so much emotion. “I’m going to enjoy this weekend—I made a decision after buying my place that I wouldn’t allow the stalker to ruin my life.”
“You’re so strong, Kit. This stalker has no idea who he’s up against.” Molly’s words were fierce. “And I can’t wait to have fun with you here—I know things have been tough with the whole Noah situation.”
Breathing in and out with conscious focus, Kit stared up at the ceiling. “I have to share his bus, Molly.” The paparazzi were buzzing in every nook and cranny; there was no way she could hide out anywhere else.
“He’s been amazing with everything so far,” Molly reminded her, her voice soft and hopeful. “It might not be so bad.”
Kit had, quite frankly, been surprised at Noah’s cooperativeness. He’d accompanied her to places where photographers could snap them, been good-natured about the ravenous media interest when she knew full well he had a temper if someone pushed into his personal space. And, most importantly, he hadn’t even appeared near a club, much less picked up a girl.
The tabloids and magazines were already agog with stories of how he’d been “tamed” by love, of how “silver screen star” Kathleen Devigny had pulled off the coup of the century by quietly stealing the heart of rock’s gorgeous bad boy. If even half the media hype about her and Noah’s relationship had been true, Kit would’ve been ecstatic. Too bad it was a tissue of lies and fantasy.
“I should go find him now.” Throat dry and stomach jumpy, she forced herself to sit up. “Some photographer’s probably got a camera trained on this bus, and while a short visit to say hi to you won’t look odd, they’ll start to wonder if I stay too long.”
“I can open Noah’s door for you if he’s out.” Molly got off the bed. “We all decided we should be able to get into each other’s buses.”
Rising herself, Kit said, “Abe?” She knew everyone was still worried about the keyboard player’s mental state, though he appeared to have gone stone-cold sober after his dangerous on-tour binge.
“That’s part of it, but it just makes sense.” Molly led her to the front of the bus. “We’re family on the road, and we keep an eye on each other. Maxwell can also get in, because seriously, the idea of Maxwell selling us out is so ludicrous it’s not even funny.”
“Did you meet his wife?” Kit stepped out of the bus in front of Molly. “I adore her already.”
“She visited during the tour,” Molly said with a smile as she pulled the door shut so it’d lock. “They’re so sweetly in love it makes me happy each time I think about it.” Her face lit up without warning. “Fox, I thought you and David were working on those lyrics you wanted to get right.”
“Done.” Fox drew Molly into a luscious invitation of a kiss, one hand cupping her face, before he turned to hug Kit. “Have a good drive down?”
Kit had just begun to reply when she heard someone calling Molly. The other woman looked over her shoulder. “It’s Maxwell. I think he wants me to play intern for a minute.”
Leaving Kit with Fox, Molly ran over to help Maxwell grab a bunch of cables out of the back of a truck. “How is he?” Kit asked Fox in a soft murmur.
The lead singer’s expression turned grim, his dark green eyes close to obsidian. “Bad. He isn’t sleeping, Kit. I don’t think he’s slept the past two, maybe more, nights.”
Hands fisting by her sides, Kit fought off images of the motel room lit by a garish neon glow. “Because of me?”
“Far as I can figure out, he uses those random fucks as sleeping pills,” Fox said bluntly. “He hasn’t had that outlet. He finally crashed just after eleven this morning, and I told everyone not to wake him. We don’t need him until right before we go onstage, and he can grab energy drinks prior to performing.”
“What do you mean he uses the groupies as sleeping pills?” Kit said, still stuck on the first part of his sentence.
Fox ran a hand through the chocolate brown of his hair. “Not my story to tell, sweetheart. But you need to know enough to understand that you have to make sure he sleeps. Otherwise he’ll have a fucking heart attack or something from sleep deprivation.” He glanced over at Noah’s bus… just as it opened.
A tousled blond head stuck out, sleepy eyes landing on Kit. “Hey.” Noah’s real smile was a thing of beauty.
Walking over, his feet bare and his body clad only in a pair of disreputable ripped jeans she recognized from the other day, he drew her into his arms, nuzzling his chin over her hair. She knew it was just for show… except maybe it wasn’t, not this time. He was all warm from sleep, drowsy eyed and yawning against her.
Giving in to temptation, she slid her own arm around his waist and, Fox’s warning strong in her mind, said, “Let’s go back to the bus so you can grab some more shut-eye.”
“I’ll catch you both later.” Fox walked over to Molly and Maxwell after bumping fists with Noah.
Not far off, Butch gave her a salute, waiting until she was at Noah’s door before he faded off into the crowd. She knew he’d be back as soon as he’d checked out the area, but for now she didn’t need the protection. Noah nudged her up into his bus, then came up behind her, pulling the door shut.
Kicking something accidentally, Kit found they were his boots. They’d been abandoned not far from the door, along with a crumpled black T-shirt. She leaned down and picked up the tee, had to fight the urge to bury her nose in it; she loved the way Noah smelled, and that hug outside had only made her need worse.
Stomach tensed against the stupid butterflies that refused to get the memo that she was over Noah, she tried for a stern tone. “This is not going to work if you throw your clothes around on the floor.”
Still smiling that lazy, sleepy smile, he grabbed the tee and chucked it onto the sofa, the layout of his bus the same as Molly and Fox’s except there was no desk tucked into the corner. “There, now it’s not on the floor.”
She tried not to smile. “You’re dopey with sleep deprivation. Go get some more rest.”
Jaw cracking in a yawn, he took her hand and tugged her to the bedroom. “I can’t sleep, but I’ll lie down if you sit with me and tell me stuff.”
Pushing him down onto the bed, she slipped off her heels, then climbed on beside him. He was lying on his back, his arms folded under his head and his eyes, those so often unreadable eyes, turned toward her.
Unable to look into the storm gray lest she betray too much, she busied herself getting into a seated position with her back to the wall that acted as the headboard. The idiotic butterflies dipped and dived at being so close to him, his gorgeous body laid out in front of her.
Noah was built beautiful, his chest bare of hair except for a thin trail that began below his belly button and disappeared into jeans that hung sexily low, exposing the lickable vee of the muscles on either side. There wasn’t a lot of ink on the front of his body. Lyrics down his left side in vertical lines, a quote that spoke to him across his ribs on the other side, and a small, stylized sun on his left shoulder.
She couldn’t see his back in this position, but she knew it bore a finely detailed phoenix so stunning the artist in question had asked Noah to pose for a photograph that adorned the front of the artist’s book. That phoenix rose from the flames, defiant and glorious, and after guessing just how deep Noah’s scars went, Kit had come to realize the phoenix was Noah.
Only he hadn’t quite escaped the forces trying to haul him back down.
I can’t save him, she reminded the heart that still ached for him. Not if he won’t help save himself.
Swallowing the lump in her throat, she said, “I had a one-on-one meeting with Esra Dali.” She’d held the news inside all day because Noah was the only one with whom she wanted to share it.
“No shit?” A smile that just destroyed her. “You got the part?”
“Not yet. But he asked me to come in next week and read for him again, this time with Garrison opposite me.” The Abigail-Garrison show was now on the road, and they were doing better than Thea had predicted, so things weren’t yet in the bag.
“Kit, that’s amazing.”
Noah’s excitement was genuine, she knew that. He’d always been her biggest champion, right back from when they’d first become friends. The fact he’d broken her heart didn’t alter that, didn’t erase all the things he’d once been to her… still was to her. “Thanks,” she said, wanting to shake him and kiss him at the same time. “I’m cautiously excited.”
“So,” Noah said after a short pause, “what did Gates say when you told him about us?”