“You’re here,” Abe said to Sarah when he reached her.
With Abe being such a big guy, most women looked ridiculously delicate next to him. Not Sarah. She looked hot and sexy and as if she could take him. Except right now her spine was stiff, her expression holding a fragility Kit had never before seen.
Not sure what to do, Kit fell back with Noah. “Shall we leave them alone?” she whispered.
Eyes grim, Noah leaned down to murmur against her ear. “I caught a glimpse of her fiancé in the crowd. Have to make sure Abe doesn’t go off on him if he appears.”
“Abe’s over Sarah. Why would he go off on Jeremy Vance?”
“Why do you think he’s over Sarah?”
“Er… huge, ugly divorce and countless groupies?”
“Yeah well, things aren’t always so simple.” Dark gray eyes locked with hers.
Abe brushed past them right then, breaking the moment. “Go,” Kit said to Noah. “Make sure he’s okay.” Abe might be sober, but if anything was going to push him off the ledge, this would be it.
As Noah went after the keyboard player, Kit returned to Sarah. “Are you okay?” she said, seeing the strain on the other woman’s face.
A jerky nod. “I have to get some fresh air.”
“We’ll go out together.”
But before Kit could lead Sarah to an exit different from the one used by Abe, Jeremy Vance appeared out of the crowd. “Darling,” said the distinguished man with his artfully silvered black hair and aquiline features, his skin tanned a flawless gold. “I was looking for you—I have someone I want you to meet.”
Arresting blue eyes landed on Kit, Vance’s lips curving. “Kathleen Devigny. I don’t think we’ve ever met in person. A pleasure.”
Kit made small talk, then watched helplessly as Jeremy led Sarah away. The other woman had put on a good face, but whatever it was Abe had said to her, it had hit deep and hard. Noah was right—their marriage might be over on paper, but it wasn’t over in their hearts, no matter if they appeared to have moved on.
Hurting for them both, she looked around until she spotted a couple she knew and went over to join them. When Noah returned, he tugged her into a slow dance on the improvised dance floor.
“Jesus,” he muttered, holding her close. “Abe’s fucking torn up. I didn’t know what to do, so I grabbed David. He’s always been able to calm Abe down.”
Kit could see that happening—David was so stable. “Where are they?”
“David took him for a walk.” He tightened his arms around her, his hard, muscled body moving just enough to tantalize. “We’ll keep him away from Jeremy Vance for another two hours and that’s it. No drama.”
“Sarah told Abe she and Jeremy are leaving via private chopper tonight.” He ran his hand down her back, his cheek pressed against her temple. “Now, will you dance with me, Kit?”
The way he held her—there was such tenderness in it that he confused her all over again.
“Yes,” she said, surrendering to the magic of this weekend.
And every beat of her heart, it whispered… be with me.
An hour after the best dance of his life, Noah was sitting on the couch watching a rerun of a football game and psyching himself up to take a sleeping pill when there was a bang on the side of the bus.
“I’ll see what it is.” Kit, dressed in a short nightgown over which she’d wrapped a kimono-style robe that reached her ankles, ducked out from the kitchenette where she’d been grabbing a glass of water.
She was so fucking beautiful.
That he could’ve handled. He’d have screwed her and moved on. But Kit, she had a heart and that heart cared about him. He didn’t understand it, but he was going to hold on to her care as long as humanly possible.
“Wait.” He beat her to the door. “No chances, okay?”
A scowl darkened her face at the reminder of her stalker, but she nodded and stepped back, letting him open the door. The cause of the disturbance was clear even in the post-midnight darkness. Abe had another man shoved up against the bus, one arm to the guy’s neck and his fist cocked back to smash into the man’s face.
Jumping out barefoot, Noah slammed out his hand and caught Abe’s fist before it would’ve pulverized the other guy’s mug. He didn’t care about the stranger. He cared about Abe. The keyboardist was dangerously strong—if he’d landed that punch, he could’ve done serious damage, ended up in jail for grievous bodily harm.
The security guys Noah had hired to spell Butch and Casey were as big, but they were following orders and staying in position on either end of the bus. He’d made it clear they weren’t to leave their posts for anything short of an emergency. All Kit’s stalker needed was a single opportunity, a momentary lapse in their concentration.
He was aware of Kit jumping out and flying toward Molly and Fox’s bus next door. Abe, meanwhile, was pushing against Noah’s hold, causing Noah’s biceps to bulge and his body strain to hold position. “Fuck it, Abe, pull back,” he gritted out as the man Abe was holding against the bus began to choke.
Only at the ragged feminine cry did he become aware of another person in the shadows. She’d been kind of crumpled against Fox’s bus, which was why Noah hadn’t noticed her at first, but now she tugged on Abe’s arm. “Stop!”
Shit, it was Sarah. That meant there was a good chance the man Abe was trying to kill was her fiancé. Noah had never understood Abe and Sarah’s relationship, but he’d felt Abe’s muscles flicker at Sarah’s voice, so he didn’t tell her to back off.
“Abe!” Sarah cried again. “Stop it!”
Making a wordless sound of rage, Abe wrenched back just as Fox appeared. The man behind Noah began to cough and rasp at the same time. “I’m going to fucking call the cop—”
Abe roared and would’ve come toward the idiot if Fox hadn’t body-slammed their bandmate into the side of the bus. Leaving the lead singer to handle Abe, Noah turned to the man—what the hell was his name?—and said, “Shut the fuck up.”
The patrician-faced man flinched at Noah’s ice-cold voice but squared his shoulders nonetheless. “I’m pressing charges.”
“Yeah?” Noah wanted to sock the asshole himself. “You do that and I’m going to release the security-camera footage of Sarah’s face and how it got that way.” He’d glimpsed the bruises, the bloody lip when she came over to try to stop Abe.
Jeremy Vance, that was his name, swallowed. “There’s no footage.”
“You sure? After that shit the last asshole tried to pull with Molly and Fox? There sure as fuck are security cameras pointed at all external areas.” It was no lie—the cameras were mounted discreetly on different parts of the buses.
The shithead looked unsure. “Your primitive friend isn’t worth my time,” he said at last in a voice that screamed wealth and breeding.
It had zero impact on Noah; he came from the same cesspool.
“Sarah.” Jeremy Vance settled his suit coat as if Abe hadn’t almost torn off a sleeve. “Come here. We’re leaving.”
Noah glanced over his shoulder to see Kit standing with her arm around Sarah, who was still in her party dress. Abe’s ex-wife was shivering, her eyes huge with shock. When Abe ripped off his jacket and threw it at Kit, she caught it, put it gently around Sarah.
“Sarah.” Jeremy’s tone was what another man might use calling a dog.
Abe shoved out again, Fox slamming him back down. Turning to Jeremy, Noah said, “Leave now, or I’ll break your face myself. Come near Sarah again, and I won’t stop Abe from killing you.” And because he understood what held value for men like Jeremy, he added a final icy warning. “You ever even whisper about charges against Abe, and I’ll make damn certain you’re known as the wimp who pounds on women—I’m sure that’ll go down great on the charity board and country club circuit.” He curled his lip. “I not only know your world, I’m part of a family that fucking rules it.” Noah might hate his parents, but he had no compunction about using their connections if those connections would protect a friend.
It was the least Robert and Virginia could do for the son they hadn’t protected.
The bastard paled and walked off at last. Noah didn’t think he’d say a word about this, but he was glad to see Thea appear with David, Molly obviously having run to get the other couple.
“What happened?” Thea asked, taking in everything at a glance, her phone already in hand.
Neither Abe nor Sarah said a word, so Noah filled Thea in as much as possible given what he’d seen. Sarah’s face told its own story.
Going up to Sarah, Thea said, “You’ll hate me for this, Sarah, but I’m going to take photos of your face.” She did it before the other woman could object.
Sarah flinched, her trembling becoming full-out shaking. “I don’t want anyone to see.” It was a thin whisper.
“No one will.” Thea’s voice was fierce. Reaching out, she cupped Sarah’s bruised face in gentle hands. “This is your insurance against the bastard. He won’t be coming near you again.”
Sarah gave a jerky nod.
“Let’s get you inside,” Molly said to Sarah and waved everyone into her and Fox’s bus.
Staying behind to lock his and Kit’s bus, Noah went over to one of the bodyguards. “Did anyone else come this way? Anyone with a camera? Crew or others who might’ve seen what happened?”
The tall, heavyset former wrestler shook his head. “No one. I saw the woman and that fuckwit head down from the party tent, and I kept an eye on them since they were cutting through your area. Seemed like they started arguing a few feet from your bus, then they were in the shadows and heading away from this section.” His jaw went grim. “I didn’t see him hit her or I would’ve intervened—counts as an emergency in my book.”
“Abe was about a minute behind them. I heard the sound of his voice and then he hauled the other guy back to slam him against your bus.” Touching a finger to his earpiece, the guard said, “We’ve got some partiers coming this way. I’ll head them off.”
Leaving him to it, Noah stepped inside Fox’s bus and pulled the door shut. He couldn’t see any of the women, realized they must be in the bedroom. Abe was pacing across the small distance of the living area, his anger as hot now as it had been outside. “The bastard fucking hit Sarah,” he said, his voice trembling with rage. “You should’ve let me turn him into paste.”
“Yeah, and watch your ass rot in jail.” Shoving a hand through his hair, Noah held Abe’s furious eyes. “I would’ve done the same thing, man.”
Fox’s and David’s immediate agreement seemed to take some of the steam out of Abe. Shuddering, he rubbed his face with both hands. “Can you check she’s okay?”
David went and tapped lightly on the closed bedroom door. Thea appeared in the doorway a second later and, pulling it half-shut, came with David. She was dressed in a just-above-knee-length robe in silky blue-gray tied securely over her nightgown, her feet bare and her face naked. Regardless, she was fully armed and ready to do what needed to be done.
“Sarah’s okay,” Thea said to Abe just as Molly exited the bedroom.
“Fox,” she said, “could you grab some ice from the party tent? We need it for her bruises.”
“On it.” Fox left at once while Molly went to make Sarah a cup of tea.
“Sarah doesn’t want to press charges,” Thea added, “and that’s her choice. I’ll keep a record of everything in case Vance ever decides to make trouble.”
“Has the bastard got her stuff?” Abe said suddenly. “Sarah always carries a purse. I didn’t see anything on her.”
Noah frowned. “Hold on.” Stepping outside, he looked carefully around until he located the spot of shine that had caught his eye as he came in. It was a sequined red clutch. Grabbing the slender thing, he took it inside. “Here.”
Abe took it, and for a second, the big guy looked shaken and vulnerable and lost. “She’s weird when she doesn’t have her purse. It’s like her security blanket.”
Tugging it gently from his grip, Thea took it to Sarah.
Fox returned half a minute later with ice in a large glass that Molly wrapped up in a hand towel and took into the bedroom.
“Okay,” Thea said when she and Molly returned to the living area of the bus, “tell me what happened so we can figure out what someone might’ve seen, what kind of story they might sell to the tabloids.”
“Vance was in a black mood,” Abe said flatly. “I could see it, decided to follow to make sure she was okay. Then he hit her.”
“Did anyone see you leave?” Thea asked, her eyes on her phone.
Abe rubbed his face again. “I don’t know. I wasn’t paying attention.”
“Jim—one of the bodyguards—says he wasn’t followed,” Noah told Thea. “I don’t think this’ll hit the tabloids.”
“If it does, I’m going to spin it as jealousy, two men fighting over a woman.” Thea’s tone brooked no argument. “Sarah stays under until her face heals. I will not have her further abused, this time by the media.”
“She can stay here tonight,” Molly said softly. “Fox and I left the party early, so we’ve already had a couple of hours of sleep.” She leaned into Fox’s embrace as the lead singer stroked her hair.
“We’ll make sure she gets home,” Fox said. “And that she has someone with her.”
Thea nodded as Molly pressed a kiss to Fox’s jaw before going to pick up the tea she’d left to steep. “I better take this to her. She’s still shocky.”
Meanwhile, Thea got on the phone, pulling her assistant out of bed and giving her rapid-fire instructions about watching all possible media outlets for anything concerning Abe, Sarah, or Vance.
Leaving her to it, Noah looked at Abe. Fox and David stepped close enough that the four of them could talk, but Abe wasn’t in a talking frame of mind. David, however, had that stubborn look on his face—the drummer was the quietest of them in many ways, but when he dug his heels in, he dug them in.
“Look man,” he said now, “whatever’s up with you and Sarah—”
“Nothing’s up,” Abe ground out. “She was being hit. I stepped in. I would’ve done it for any woman in that situation.”
“Yeah, fine.” David folded his arms. “But this is Sarah, and the last time you two were together, you went down the rabbit hole.”
Abe’s jaw was granite. “The drugs weren’t Sarah’s fault. She never touched the stuff, hated that I did. Fuck, she even flushed my stash down the toilet when she could find it.”
“I know,” Fox said, “but being with her did something to you.” Putting his hands on his hips, he held Abe’s gaze. “And being with you didn’t make her happy either, so just be careful.”
Hands fisted, Abe didn’t say anything.
“Fuck it.” Noah grabbed the keyboardist’s shoulder. “We’re just trying to look out for you. We’ll look out for her too, make sure she’s all right.” They’d closed ranks around Abe during the divorce, but this was simple human kindness.
Abe gave a jerky nod. “She doesn’t have any family.”
Noah hadn’t known that, felt a sudden stab of guilt at how he’d judged Sarah for being so possessive and clingy of Abe when they’d been together. Young and alone in a vast city, he couldn’t blame her for wanting to hang on to the one person who was hers.
“We’ll take care of everything,” Thea said, having finished her phone call. “Noah, I need you and Kit to hog the media spotlight, make sure no one feels the need to go digging up other juicy news about the band.”
“No problem.” He didn’t think Kit would mind. “I’ll be dropping her home tomorrow, so that’ll give the vultures plenty to salivate over.” He felt Fox’s eyes burn into him as Thea nodded and returned to the bedroom. The lead singer didn’t say anything until after Kit, Thea, and Molly had come out of the bedroom, having left Sarah tucked up in the bed.
Molly stayed in the bus in case Sarah needed anything, while Kit and Thea went across to Noah’s bus to get a cup of coffee. David took Abe for another cooling-off walk; the levelheaded drummer was the best person for it.
“You and Kit,” Fox said quietly, the two of them standing between the buses. “What’s happening there?”
Noah was the one who folded his arms this time. “None of your business.”
“Screw that, Noah. What I said to Abe? Applies double here—you broke her heart.”
Noah flinched at the pitiless words. Fox was the only one who knew what he’d done to Kit, having seen her directly after she found Noah in bed with the groupie. “I won’t hurt her again,” he said to the man who’d been his best friend since they were seven.
“You sure?” Fox raised an eyebrow, dark green eyes unforgiving. “I’ve seen the way she looks at you—the way you look at her. Don’t try to bullshit me that you’re both acting.”
Noah didn’t have an answer for that. He knew he was taking advantage of Kit. “I haven’t lied to her.”
“Have you told her everything?”
“No. She doesn’t need to know.” Noah would go to the grave keeping that information from Kit. “Don’t you tell her,” he said, fisting his hands in Fox’s T-shirt and hauling the other man in. “Don’t you fucking say a word.”
Fox shoved him back. “You think I’d do that?” It was a low snarl.
Thrusting his hands through his hair, Noah blew out a breath. “Fuck. No.” He drew deep drafts of the cold air. “The idea of her knowing…” He shook his head, unable to describe the humiliated anguish it caused in him.
“I get it,” Fox said quietly. “But this is Kit. She was your friend first, is still your friend. Maybe you should trust her.”