“Since you’ve been drinking,” she added, “I’ll call you a car. But you will get out.”
His face was stone, eyes about as soft as concrete. “So that’s how hard you’ll fight for me?”
She trembled, her hand fisting. “How about you fight for me for once?”
Not giving him a chance to answer, she shook her head. “You don’t trust me with your secrets, you mess with my head, you make me feel ugly and unwanted, and you ask why I won’t fight for you?” Anger smashed into hurt, the jagged shards splintering through her. “Fuck. You.”
Noah’s face set into an impenetrable mask. It was the same look he’d given his parents at the charity gala.
Hardening her heart against him, protecting herself against the pain he could so carelessly inflict, Kit said, “You did this. Whatever the pain inside you, tonight you made the decision to drink and to do that to me.” But alcohol or not, he wasn’t drunk, had known full well what he was doing.
“I’m not leaving you with that creep out there.”
Kit gave him a humorless smile. “I’ll survive. I damn well did while you were busy fucking every groupie from here to God knows where.” Her words made him flinch, and a small, vengeful part of her felt good that she’d hurt him too.
And that made her hate him a little, that he’d turned her into this vindictive bitch. Not wanting to say anything else, words that would make her hate herself too, she walked into the house and grabbed her phone. She felt Noah come in, go into his room. He was outside with his duffel when the car drew up, Casey at the wheel. The bodyguard and driver was meant to be on a break, but she’d asked him to do this as a favor, not trusting any other driver not to use it as a payday.
Locking the door the instant Noah was out, she determinedly refused to cry. Instead, she called Fox. “I threw Noah out,” she told the lead singer. “Make sure he doesn’t do anything stupid.” However much she hated him at this instant, she couldn’t forget the night that had begun this journey, how she’d found Noah in the motel room.
“I’ll take care of it,” Fox said in his distinctive grit-laced voice. “You okay?”
“No.” Everything hurt.
“You want Molly to come over? Sarah’ll be fine on her own—she’s steadied since we got back.”
“Thanks, but I think I need to be alone right now.” Get her head screwed on straight. “Look after him.” With that, she hung up and went back out into the garden.
Seeing the beer bottles Noah had left out there made her angry all over again. Picking them up, she took them inside to the sink, poured out the beer that remained in the third bottle, then ran the water so the smell wouldn’t linger and took the bottles out to the recycle bin. After which, she returned to the garden.
Except she couldn’t find peace here, not today. All she kept seeing was Noah. All she kept feeling was him, his lips pressed against hers and his eyes so bitterly cold. “No more, Kit,” she whispered. “You can’t help a man who doesn’t want to be helped.” She loved him, would probably always love him, but it was time she accepted that being with him would slowly destroy her.
She was done.
Noah ripped up the stupid little cherry blossom tree he’d planted in an effort to recreate Kit’s garden inside his home and slammed it against the opposing wall. He missed, hit the wall of glass. The dirt slid down in smudged streaks, but he didn’t stop to watch; he was already ripping up the other plants. He’d put down smooth stones like she had in certain places in her garden, and now he picked those up and threw them at the glass. It smashed.
The sound was right, was an echo of what was happening inside him.
He picked up another stone. Then another. And another.
By the time he ran out of stones, he’d broken every single pane of glass that had previously provided a view from the house into the garden. Shards glittered under the small lights that had come on automatically when he stepped outside. He’d put in those lights because he knew Kit often sat in her garden at night. He’d liked to imagine her here, a cup of green tea in hand as she relaxed after dinner.
Jerking around, he saw Fox leaning in the doorway that led into the garden from near the living area, his arms folded and his expression unreadable.
“How the fuck did you get in?”
“You gave me a key,” Fox reminded him. “I wouldn’t have come inside on my own except you weren’t answering the door.”
Chest heaving and hair falling over his eyes, Noah stared at his friend. “It’s eleven at night. You didn’t just decide to leave Molly and Sarah alone and drive over here.”
“Sarah’s asleep and Molly’s talking to her best friend on the phone.” Fox’s eyes watched him without blinking. “I’m going to make you some coffee.”
Noah didn’t go inside. He destroyed what little remained of the garden. When he was done, no one would’ve guessed that there’d once been a pathetic little garden here. No one could see his fucking heart, all stunted and hopeful and overgrown with weeds.
“Here.” Walking out, Fox thrust a mug of coffee into his hand.
Holding his own cup, the lead singer looked around. “Feel better?”
“Go to hell.” Noah threw the damn coffee against a wall. It made a satisfying crash of sound, the coffee dripping like blood down the white stucco.
Fox didn’t look at the new damage. “Kit called me.”
Skin going tight all over his body, Noah stared at the coffee-stained wall. “Why?”
“She thought you might do something stupid.” Fox took a sip of his coffee. “I don’t think she was thinking about garden destruction.”
Noah fisted his hands. He wasn’t going to talk about Kit to anyone.
“What did you do?”
“None of your fucking business.”
“Fair enough.” Fox drank more of his coffee. “Do I need to punch you in the face?”
Glancing at the other man, Noah shrugged. “It’s done. Over.”
Fox’s eyes looked black in the light as he held Noah’s gaze. “Bullshit.”
“Now that we’re past that, we’re going to talk.”
Snorting, Noah swiveled on his heel and went to walk inside. Fox blocked him. Noah shoved at his shoulder, Fox shoved back, and then they were throwing punches, Fox’s mug falling unheeded to the rucked up dirt and dying plants. If it had been Abe, Noah would’ve been in trouble—the keyboard player was big enough that his size was a distinct advantage in a fight.
Fox and Noah, however, were evenly matched. He landed a punch for every one of Fox’s. His fist smashed into Fox’s cheek, the other man’s slammed into his jaw, making his teeth crash down on the side of his tongue and the hot taste of blood fill his mouth. He retaliated with a punch to Fox’s ribs that made the lead singer double over.
Reacting to the hit, Fox headbutted him in the gut, taking him to the dirt.
And Noah stopped thinking.
Wiping the blood off his face with a towel some time later, Noah looked in the mirror. “You fucked up my face, man.”
“Shut the fuck up,” Fox snarled from the kitchen area.
When Noah walked in, the other man threw him a bag of frozen peas that had probably been around since the Ice Age. Noah didn’t even know who had put it in his freezer. Fox was holding another bag of some frozen thing against his eye.
Noah chose to use the peas against his jaw. Unlike Fox, he didn’t have a black eye. He had a jaw that felt as if it had come to within a hairsbreadth of being broken, a cut above his left eye, and another one on his cheek. His mouth wasn’t in the best condition either.
“You look like shit,” he said to Fox.
“Thanks, princess. You look great.” His hair damp from the water he’d thrown on his face at the sink, the lead singer pointed at Noah. “You’re calling Thea.”
“Not happening. Let the tabloids make up some bullshit story about how the band is splitting up.” The fact they’d been in a fight would be pretty damn obvious as soon as the two of them were caught on camera. “She’s probably asleep anyway.”
“Thea doesn’t sleep, and you’re a chickenshit.”
Noah didn’t deny it—Thea was goddamn scary when she got mad. “I don’t see you calling her.”
“Bastard.” Stabbing in their publicist’s name on his phone, Fox put it on speaker. “Noah and I punched each other,” he said when she answered. “Our faces look like crap.”
“Of course you did, and of course they do,” she muttered. “It’s not like I enjoy having a peaceful life.” A small pause and rustling noises followed by a masculine murmur in the background.
“David says he’s going to punch you both in the morning.” Thea actually sounded like she was smiling. “I’ll make a preemptive strike, say you fought after a few too many drinks, then kissed and made up. Long as they have a reason and you don’t give them a juicier option, we can ride it out.”
She made a small hmming sound. “It’s not like they can sell the line that you were fighting over Kit—not when Fox is so openly crazy for Molly.” Thea’s voice softened on the last part. “And rock stars are expected to behave badly once in a while, so this is actually good for your image. Leave it to me.”
After hanging up, Fox went straight back to the conversation that had led to the fight. “You screwed up. Why?”
“It’s what I do.” Noah put down the bag of frozen peas, felt his jaw. In one piece at least.
“How long have we been friends?” Fox’s tone was dead serious. “Over twenty years. You don’t get to bullshit your way through this.”
“What, you want to have a heart-to-heart? Shall we paint our nails together while we’re at it?”
“You love her,” Fox said, stealing all the air in Noah’s lungs. “You’ve loved her for so long, and now you’re just going to give up? That isn’t the boy I knew.”
Noah sucked in a breath at Fox’s oblique reference to their childhood. “Don’t go there,” he said quietly. “Never go there.”
“Is keeping your secret worth giving up Kit?”
“Yes,” he said on a wave of gut-twisting pain. “I’ll lose her anyway if I tell her.” It was torn out of him, the serrated edge in every word ripping him bloody. “I can’t stand how she’ll look at me.” How his father had looked at him.
His mother had stopped looking at him altogether.
“You don’t know that.” Fox threw down the bag he’d been holding against his eye. “She loves you too.”
“So much she threw me out.” That hurt, that she’d thrown him out the first time he’d fucked up… except it wasn’t the first time, was it? He’d more than fucked up the night in the hotel suite when he’d orchestrated that ugly little play that had devastated her.
He could still see the stark, shocked pain in her eyes, still hear the dull sound of her heels on the carpet as she ran out of the room.
Shoving a hand through his hair, he collapsed into a chair. “I was so angry at her,” he whispered through a throat gone raw. “For expecting me to be normal.”
“You sure she’s the one expecting anything?” asked the man who’d known him since he was a boy who just wanted to be like everyone else. “Or is it you?”