Kit woke with her heart thumping. A glance at the watch she’d left on the built-in nightstand told her it had only been two hours since she’d gone to bed. Sarah had been asleep by the time everyone returned to their buses, and they’d made plans to meet in the morning in case Fox and Molly needed any help getting the other woman home without tipping off the media.
Rubbing at her eyes, she figured it must’ve been a very late partier outside who’d woken her. She couldn’t hear music any longer, but people were no doubt up and about. She’d just turned onto her side when she heard it—a low, harsh sound, like an animal caught in a trap and unable to escape. Shoving aside the thin comforter she’d pulled over herself, she jumped out of bed and ran to the living area.
Noah was lying on the air mattress, having kicked off the sleeping bag. Dressed in black boxer briefs, he was curled up on his side, his hands fisted and his teeth gritted so hard that she could see bone white against skin, muscle and tendon taut enough to snap.
Dropping to her knees beside him, she said, “Noah. Noah!” When he didn’t wake, that horrible sound still coming from his throat, she put her hand on his bare shoulder and shook. “Noah, wake up!”
Oh no, he’d taken the sleeping pills. He’d done it in front of her, after showing her the bottle. “There,” he’d said, throwing them back dry. “I’ll sleep. Happy?”
She had been happy, thinking he’d finally get some rest. Now she realized she’d made a terrible mistake. “Noah,” she said, shaking him again. “Noah, wake up, please. Noah.” Crying now, she shook and shook, but he wouldn’t wake from his drugged nightmare.
Not knowing what to do, she ran to the bedroom and grabbed her phone, found Fox’s number. Fox had known Noah the longest, might understand what this was. “Fox,” she said when he answered the phone on the first ring. “Noah won’t wake up and he’s having a horrible dream.”
“I’m on my way.”
“Just you!” she said before he hung up. “Not Molly.” She loved the other woman, but she wouldn’t let anyone but Fox see Noah like this.
He was at the bus door—which Kit had opened—within half a minute after hanging up. Coming inside and pulling the door shut behind him, he said, “Did he take something?”
“Sleeping pills.” She pointed to the bottle on the counter of the kitchenette. “Nothing strong. I checked. It’s just meant to make him drowsy so he’d drift off.” She stroked back Noah’s sweat-damp hair. “Noah, please wake up.”
Fox didn’t say anything. Hauling Noah up, he hit him across the face hard enough that it had Kit jerking back. About to shove the lead singer away from Noah, she suddenly realized Noah had stopped making that trapped, painful sound. “Noah?”
He shook his head slightly, but his eyes remained heavy. Settling behind him, she tugged so that he leaned against her. “Noah, it’s Kit.”
Wrapping her arms around him from the back at the mumble, she just held him. “It’s me, I have you.” Her eyes met the smoky green of Fox’s. “You’ve done this before.” He hadn’t even hesitated in hitting Noah—he’d known it was the only thing that would work. “Will he be all right?”
Fox, his face grim, grabbed Noah’s chin. “Noah. You there?”
A faint nod.
Getting up, Fox said, “I’m going to put on some coffee. Pour it down his throat when it’s ready. Don’t let him fall back asleep.”
“I won’t.” Wiping the heel of one hand over her eyes, she said, “Noah, did you tell Fox about ‘Sparrow’ yet?”
A slow scowl on Noah’s face. “Shuddup.”
Wet laughter shook her body. “Make me.”
“Kit.” He raised a hand, closed it over her forearm. “Pretty Kit.”
The scent of coffee filled the air. Going to the door, Fox said, “He’ll stay a little dopey for a while, so don’t take advantage. I’m going to leave so he can focus on you—it should help.” With that, the lead singer was gone.
Kit tugged hard on Noah’s hair when his eyes began to close. “Stay awake.”
“Mean Hallucination Kit.”
“Going from pretty to hallucination?” Easing him down, she went to quickly grab some coffee.
It only took her a few seconds, but his eyes were closed by the time she came back. “Hey!” She couldn’t bring herself to hit him, so she pulled his hair again. “I’m going to tell Fox about ‘Sparrow.’”
His eyes flicked open. “Hallucination Kit’s not nice.”
“No, I’m not.” Putting down the cup, she pushed and tugged until he was upright enough that she could get behind him again, cradling his back against her chest. “Noah!”
He muttered grumpily at her, but she didn’t care. Not so long as he was awake and not locked in whatever hell it was that had held him captive.
God, she loved him.
There, she’d said it, even if it was only in her head. She loved him. Damaged and beautiful and talented, he was the only man she’d ever loved, no matter if he’d stomped on her heart.
“Drink this coffee,” she ordered after blowing on it to cool it down.
“Coffee from Mean Hallucination Kit,” he mumbled, letting her put the cup to his lips.
She got half a cup down him. He spoke in disjointed pieces between sips. Sometimes he made her laugh, but mostly she was so worried about him that she focused every ounce of her attention on keeping him awake. “I am never letting you take sleeping pills again,” she said at one point, rubbing her cheek against the bristled roughness of his.
“Hate sleeping pills,” he muttered, able to hold his own coffee cup now. “Make me scream.”
Kit froze, caught in a moment when she knew she could have the answer to every question she’d ever had about Noah.
Don’t take advantage.
Fox’s light comment suddenly held a deeper, darker meaning. Kit opened her mouth, about to give in to temptation… and couldn’t. Because whatever she discovered this way would be tainted and would always taint anything they built, whether it was a continuing friendship or something deeper.
Swallowing the questions, she kissed the side of his temple. “Finish drinking your coffee.”
“Enough.” He put down the nearly empty cup. “I’m jumpy.” A yawn cracked his mouth, but he kept his eyes open. “Pretty Hallucination Kit.”
Not lucid, she realized, just a touch more coherent. “Pretty Drunk Noah.”
He started laughing as if that was the most hilarious thing he’d ever heard. “Not drunk,” he said at last, a heavy scowl on his face. “Sleeping pills. Hate sleeping pills.”
“I know. I’m sorry I made you take them.” She hadn’t understood, hadn’t realized the terrors that haunted him. “I won’t do it again.”
He patted her forearm. “’S okay.” Another yawn. “I want to sleep.”
Kit went to tell him to stay awake, but a glance at the phone she’d dropped nearby told her it was nearly dawn. Maybe he could sleep now? “Will the bad dreams come?” she asked, hoping she wasn’t inadvertently crossing a line.
He shrugged. “Maybe. But need sleep.”
Kit eased him down. “Okay, but I’m going to dump ice water on you if you won’t wake up when I shake you.”
“’Kay.” A frown, lines between his eyes. “Alone.”
It took her a second. “Okay.” She picked up the sleeping bag and put it over him, then went into the bedroom. If Noah needed to be alone to get rest, then she’d give him solitude—but she’d still keep a careful eye on him.
Noah woke with cotton wool in his mouth and a bladder that was about to burst. Stumbling to the toilet, he shut the door and did what needed to be done, then turned to the sink and threw water on his face. The shock of cold brought a few of his senses back to him.
That was when he noted the bruise on his left cheekbone.
Opening the door, he said, “Kit?”
She poked her head out of the bedroom. “You’re awake.” A brilliant smile, her gorgeous hair tumbling over the vivid blue of her robe.
“Did I fall flat on my face?” He indicated the bruise.
“No.” She winced. “You kind of ran into Fox’s hand.”
Fuck. He’d taken the fucking pills. “How bad?”
“You wouldn’t wake up, but once you did, you were quite funny.” A crooked smile. “You called me Mean Hallucination Kit.”
He felt his gut turn to lead. “What else did I say?”
“Nothing, except for telling me what you thought of certain bands and how you hated sleeping pills.” Her eyes, bleak and dark, went to the bruise on his face. “I’m sorry, Noah. I didn’t know the pills would lock you into a nightmare.”
The lead grew heavier. “You saw my nightmare?”
“What did I say?”
“Nothing.” She held his eyes. “I didn’t ask you and you didn’t say.”
He finally took a breath. “Thank you.”
Kit shook her head. “Don’t thank me. I pushed you into this.” Wrapping her arms around herself, she rocked slightly on her feet. “You can’t go on like this, not for three more weeks or however long it takes.”
“We’ve had this argument.” He grabbed her wrist. “I can do it.” He couldn’t have her give up on him.
“I know you can.” Tugging at her wrist, she tried to extricate it, but when he refused to let go, she stopped attempting to pull away. “I want you to move in with me.”
He stared at her. “What?” Having his own space, his own bolt-hole, had always been critical.
“You’ve slept over before,” she pointed out. “You might’ve been blind drunk the last time, but the other times you were sober.”
He’d snuck out and run for hours each of those nights, fallen asleep out of exhaustion. It had only been for a fitful few hours, but he had slept. “Why do you want me to move in with you?” He had to know what she expected, because there were things he simply couldn’t give her.
She touched his bruised cheek, her fingers featherlight. “You asked me to be with you.”
His entire world trembled.
He knew he should call back that request. It was beyond selfish. But his throat, it wouldn’t work.
“If we’re going to make a relationship work in any way,” she said, “we have to figure this out.”
“I’m almost twenty-eight years old, Kit. If I could figure it out, I would have by now.” He turned into the tender warmth of her hand.
“I bet you’ve always tried to do it alone, haven’t you?” She didn’t wait for an answer. “We do it together this time.”
Noah wanted to say she was wrong, that it wouldn’t work, but he hadn’t ever tried to figure this out with someone else. Even with Fox, they’d only discussed it that one time when he’d been a scared seven-year-old boy. Never again.
And there lay the crux of it. “How can you fix something if you don’t even know why it’s broken?” Because he wouldn’t tell her. The idea of Kit knowing? It savaged him.
“I know something really bad happened to you,” she whispered. “Bad enough that one of the toughest men I know is still haunted by it.”
He flinched. “I’m not tough.” If he had been, he would’ve gotten over this long ago.
“I’ll be the judge of that.” Her wrist still in his hand, she said, “Will you come home with me?”
“Yes,” he said, a desolate nothingness inside him.
This would fail. When it did, so would all the hope inside him that one day he might be normal, might have the right to love Kit.