Kit worried about Noah when they headed to bed, but she didn’t want to push him on the sleep issue after the disaster with the pills. Not to mention she didn’t want to end his first day here with a fight. Smiling good night, she spent an hour awake and worrying before finally drifting off—only to wake three hours later. It took her sleep-muddled brain a minute to realize what had woken her: noises from Noah’s room.
Getting up, she pulled on her blue robe and went out to look for him. His door was open, but there was no Noah inside. A whisper of wind along the hallway told her where he’d gone. She padded to the door that led out into the garden, found him sitting on the outdoor bench in his boxer briefs, his head between his hands and his elbows on his thighs. She could see his face in the soft light from the solar-powered paper lanterns she’d hung out there.
The naked anguish in his expression threatened to break her.
Pulling back before he saw her, she pressed her spine against the wall, swallowing repeatedly and blinking in an attempt to get the burning in her eyes under control. Only when she was no longer in danger of breaking down did she step out. “Can’t sleep?”
His head jerked up. “Shit. I woke you.”
“Want to go for a run?”
He stared at her. “It’s two thirty in the morning.”
“So?” Turning to go back into the house, she said, “I’m getting changed.”
“You hate running.”
“Doesn’t mean I can’t do it.”
He knocked on her bedroom door half a minute after she’d closed it. “Kit, it’s fine.”
Having already pulled out her running shorts, she opened the door. “Noah, we’re in this together. You watched Dancing with the Stars with me. I’ll go running with you. Now go get changed.” She shut the door in his face.
“I’m awake now and I’m going running. Your choice if you want to join me.”
An infuriated sound came through the door, but she heard him moving to his room, and when she stepped out in her running clothes, her hair corralled into a ponytail, he was there. “We can run around inside your property,” he said, holding up a hand when she would’ve objected. “This stalker guy watches you. We can’t take the risk that he’s out there and he has a gun.”
She threw up her hands. “I don’t think he can run that fast, but whatever.” At least this mortgaged-to-the-hilt estate had enough land to make for a good lap.
Noah put his hands on his hips, eyes narrowed. Kit never said things like “whatever” in that tone of voice. “What’s wrong with you?”
A growling sound. “When did I say I was a morning person?” With that, she turned and headed out. “Pull the door shut and set the alarm.”
Glad she was thinking smart and not relying blindly on her security guys, he input the code to arm the security system, then pulled the door shut. It locked automatically behind them. Kit was in front of him, warming up. Noah never warmed up—he just ran until the nightmares couldn’t keep up, but today he stretched to keep Kit company. When they began to run, it was to head down a pathway that wove through the trees on her property.
It took him a minute to figure out the right pace. Kit was fit, but his stride was longer and he ran far more than she did. Running was hands down her least favorite form of exercise. It should’ve irritated him that he had to slow down for her, but he liked having her beside him, liked that he wasn’t alone in the dark. The fact that she chose to be with him even when she didn’t like running?
Yeah, that did all kinds of things inside him.
“You going to build a pool?” That, he knew, had been a significant downside to this property, but she’d bought it anyway because she’d been in a hurry. Not content with ejaculating on her bed, her disturbed stalker had slipped love notes under the town house door. She’d had to get out.
“When I have the money,” Kit replied.
“I have the money.”
“I’ll pretend you didn’t say that.”
The night wind rippling through his hair, he set his jaw. “If we’re going to live together, I get to contribute.” He wanted to contribute, to do things that turned this from her place to theirs, entangling them together on another level.
“Right now we haven’t even lived together a single day. Let’s talk when it’s been a year.”
Kit snorted. “Eight.”
He grinned. “What kind of pool do you want?”
Slanting him a glance, she said, “Shut up and run.”
He laughed and they ran, the night a starlit quiet around them. They passed one of the security guys, kept going with a nod of hello. It took four circuits around the property before Kit stopped at her front door. “Enough?” she said, her breath jagged and her hands on her knees.
“Yeah.” He usually ran for hours, but then he was usually alone. Running with Kit had been different—he didn’t know if he was tired enough to catch some shut-eye, but at least he no longer felt as twisted and black inside. “Let’s go in.”
He did sleep. Not much, but about the same amount he did after exhausting himself—or by fucking out his rage. Not that it had exactly been the latter when he screwed those random groupies. There was a twisted version of male pride involved too, but he didn’t have to think about his fucked-up psyche today. Because today when he woke, it wasn’t with the taste of disgust in his mouth but to the scent of coffee.
Wandering out of the bedroom without bothering to pull on jeans over the black of his boxer briefs—Kit had seen it all before anyway—he yawned as he stepped into the kitchen. “I thought you’d sleep in.”
She didn’t look away from the box she was reading. “Can’t. Body clock.”
“What’s that?” Leaning on the counter, he stole her coffee and took a deep gulp.
His stomach rumbled.
Glancing across the counter, her lips began to curve before her expression morphed into a scowl. “You look terrible.”
Kit was lying—Noah looked gorgeous. His hair was all rumpled, his shoulders golden and sleek with muscle, his upper body far too beautiful for her peace of mind.
And his eyes, those gray eyes, were full of light.
“Gee, thanks, Katie.”
“No waffles for you.”
“Hey, come on!” A grin that made him impossibly more beautiful. Putting down her coffee mug, he came around the counter, and damn it, he wasn’t wearing jeans. “I bet I can convince you otherwise.”
When he put his hands on her hips and tugged her forward, she slammed the box of waffle mix against his chest. “Stop right there, mister.” Her stomach was flipping, her skin hot.
He wrapped his arms around her instead and leaned in to press his forehead against hers. “Good morning.”
“I hate mornings,” she said, trying to keep her voice strong. It was difficult—she’d never seen Noah like this. In a good mood, yes, but never this good. He seemed to be smiling with his whole body. If this was what she got to wake up to every day, she might just come to like mornings.
“I’ll make the waffles from scratch,” he said, his cheeks creasing.
Her mouth fell open. “Since when can you cook?”
“I didn’t say I could cook. I said I could make waffles.” Moving one hand to her face, he cupped her cheek, that heartbreaker smile still on his face. “I had a job in a diner once, remember? Not long after the guys and I first came to LA. Anyway, the cook taught me.”
“Female cook?” she asked and saw the answer in his wicked smile. Affecting a scowl, she pushed at his shoulders, had to fight not to keep stroking the hot silk of his skin. “Let’s see these famous waffles.” She didn’t really want him to release her. Being close to Noah when he was like this… it made her want to laugh and cry at the same time.
He rubbed his thumb over her cheek before letting go. “Where’s your flour?”
“Same place as your pants,” she muttered and, when he threw back his head and laughed, couldn’t help her own smile. “Go put on clothes or you might burn something important.”
Still grinning, he returned to his bedroom and came back out wearing only a pair of jeans she recognized—hard not to when the denim had a tear just below his butt and threadbare patches all over. “Do you wear those outside?”
A shrug. “I wore them onstage during the tour.”
Jealousy bit into her with sharp little teeth. Stomach tensing, she shoved away the nasty, vicious emotion. Being jealous of all the women who wanted Noah—who’d been with him—would destroy the two of them before they ever had a shot. She had to let it go, but it was hard. So damn hard.
“Found it!” He held up her flour container with a triumphant look on his face.
Smiling, because how could she not with him here, looking at her that way, she helped gather the other ingredients. He was just finishing up the batter while the waffle iron heated when her cell phone rang.
Glancing at the screen, she saw it was her agent. “Harper?” she said, figuring it had to be bad news if the other woman was calling her at six thirty in the morning. “Hit me with it.”
“Esra Dali just called.” Harper’s voice was ebullient. “Wants you in for a screen test at ten.”
Kit gripped the edge of the counter. “You sure he wasn’t drunk?” she asked, trying to keep her heart from racing and failing spectacularly. “Pretty early for a call.”
“He keeps crazy hours. You make sure you get your butt down to the studios by ten, otherwise I’ll disavow all knowledge of you.”
“Where do I need to go?” Writing down the details, she hung up to see the gorgeous rocker in her kitchen pouring batter into the waffle iron.
It was as wonderfully surreal a sight as the words she spoke. “I have a screen test for Redemption.”
Noah’s face lit up. “Fuck yeah.”
An hour and a half later, after they’d polished off the waffles and she was in her garden, meditating to put herself into the right mind-set for the screen test, Harper called back. The normally cool and collected agent was beside herself.
Thanks to Kit’s suddenly red-hot profile, the cosmetics company had sent in a revised offer that extended her proposed contract to include all international markets. “I don’t see any nasty clauses this time,” Harper said, “though I’m flicking it to the legal eagles to check. You should be signing on the dotted line tomorrow if all goes well.”
Kit hung up to the knowledge that her financial problems were close to over and that, if all went well, her career was about to shoot into the stratosphere. She should’ve been as ecstatic as Harper, but…
Her eyes lingered on Noah where he sat against the cherry blossom tree, lazily strumming his guitar while she sat cross-legged on a yoga mat a short distance from him. The music didn’t bother her when she meditated—she liked it, liked him nearby. But even when physically close, it felt as if he stood an ocean apart from her.
It wasn’t the sex. She hungered for Noah until she couldn’t breathe, but if sex hurt him to the point that it had become a weapon he used to self-harm, then she’d find a way to deal. No, what caused her pain was that he didn’t trust her enough to tell her what had caused the still-bleeding wound on his soul.
Lifting his head, he met her gaze, and in his eyes she saw a future with a man who was her best friend, but a best friend who’d keep his secrets, keep part of his soul forever hidden from her.
Could she live with that?