Kit managed to make it home and inside the garage before she gave in to the sobs that had been building inside her since the moment she’d walked out of the studio and seen Noah waiting for her. It had been like one of her stupid daydreams come to life—daydreams he’d stomped to death under his boot.
Crying so hard that it hurt, she clung to the steering wheel and told herself to stop. But she couldn’t. All she could think about was that night, the night when Noah had hurt her more than anyone ever had before.
Kit had learned not to believe in people a long time ago, courtesy of her parents. It wasn’t that Parker and Adreina Ordaz-Castille were bad people; they loved Kit, but they weren’t exactly reliable or steady. When Kit was a child, her father would play with her for hours sometimes, promise to take her to get ice cream the next day, only to cancel because a friend asked him to go sailing.
Some months she’d be lucky to see him at all around his business and social engagements. Other months he’d focus all his attention on her, charm her into believing his promises… only to disappear back into his busy life just when she’d hopefully invited him to a school play or some other small thing that meant a lot to her.
It had been either feast or famine.
As for her mom, Adreina would take Kit shopping, spoil her, but though she’d promised Kit some mother-daughter time, she’d invite along her girlfriends. Kit had craved alone time with her vivacious and always-in-demand mom. Just an hour when she didn’t have to vie against adults for Adreina’s attention, when they could talk about little-girl things.
But if Adreina wasn’t with friends, she was at Parker’s side as they enjoyed their active social life together. Midway through her eighth year on the planet, Kit suddenly realized she hadn’t actually seen either parent for a month. Late nights meant they were asleep when she got ready for school, at business meetings or modeling shoots when she came home after school, and from there, they’d been going straight to dinners and parties.
Kit’s nannies had been nice, but they changed so often she knew not to get attached—Adreina always fired them when she decided to be a stay-at-home mom, which happened about four times a year and usually lasted all of three weeks.
By the time of Kit’s ninth birthday, it had become easier not to expect anything emotionally from either Parker or Adreina—that way she was never disappointed. Instead, any time her mom or dad kept a promise or remembered something important to Kit, it had been a nice surprise that gave her pleasure.
She’d never again been as terribly hurt by their benign neglect.
And somewhere along the way, she’d started applying her rule about not expecting anything from people to everyone she met. It had stood her in good stead in show business. Then she’d become friends with Fox, Noah, Abe, and David. The four men had kept their word when they’d said they’d do something—whether it was meeting her for lunch or dropping by to move her stuff from her tiny first apartment to the town house.
After her life exploded following Last Flight’s success, the guys had been there to help her through it, far more used to A-list fame than Kit was. When she’d needed dates for awards shows or other red carpet events, Abe, Fox, or David would always make time to go with her, aware that she was nervous and needed to be with someone she trusted.
Even before, when she’d been on Primrose Avenue, the soap that had paid her rent for years, one of the three men had stepped in whenever she needed a plus one. But Noah… Noah hadn’t ever been her date, not even before what he’d done during the filming of Last Flight.
They’d always had too much chemistry for her to be comfortable with him the way she was with the other guys. Until one day he’d heard her talking to Abe about a book she’d recently read and called her up that night to tell her he’d just finished it himself. They’d spoken for an hour, and by the time she hung up, the chemistry had started to change into something deeper, more dangerous.
It had continued to change, call by call. Eventually they’d moved from books to movies, and he’d come over to her place to watch old black-and-white films full of glamour and wit. They’d played chess in the garden, and he’d even helped her plant the leafy tree that shaded the picnic table. When the band went on tour, she’d started to fly in for visits, somehow always ending up in Noah’s room.
Where they’d done nothing sexual, nothing physically intimate. But they’d been intimate nonetheless. In those hotel rooms, they’d spoken to each other about far more than movies or books or chess. She’d told him about her parents, about how she’d spent every childhood birthday she could remember with a different nanny, and of her dreams of breaking into movies.
Noah, in turn, had told her that his parents had shipped him off to boarding school when he got to be a handful.
Apparently I was too much stress. They much preferred not having to see my face every day.
At the time, she’d thought that moment a crucial one in their relationship. Kit had never felt as close to a man as she had to Noah—she’d trusted him, relied on him, to the point that she’d ignored her own instincts about his insatiable sexual appetite. Until that horrible night. It had felt like being backhanded across the face.
That hadn’t even been the most awful thing.
When Noah’s eyes had met hers, she’d seen the truth—he’d done it on purpose, orchestrated things so she’d find him fucking another woman. He’d clearly realized what she felt for him, and he’d wanted to make certain she didn’t start to think he felt the same. Humiliating and hurting her had obviously been easier than just telling her to her face.
Her eyes swollen and her throat raw, Kit pressed her head to the steering wheel as the tears finally faded. She felt worn out, beaten. As an intelligent woman, she knew the best thing to do would be to cut Noah out of her life. Only she wasn’t about to give up the other guys and Molly and Thea just to avoid him.
And the worst, the absolute worst thing was that a part of her still wanted to see him, still missed him.
She got out of the car, then trudged her way to the house and to the fridge to get some water. The instant she opened the door, she remembered Noah doing the same yesterday, and that made her mind ricochet to the motel and to the syringe full of God-only-knew-what that Noah had considered pumping into his veins.
Her hand slid off the fridge, the door shutting on its own as she pressed the cold bottle of water to her forehead. It throbbed, both from her tears and from the memory of the breath-stealing fear that had gripped her that night. Regardless of how much she might want to forget Noah, to shove him out of her life, she had to accept that she’d be a wreck if she lost him so completely.
“So what are you going to do, Kit?” she asked herself.
There was no magical answer.
An hour later, she was lying in bed staring up at the ceiling when she realized her mind was going around in circles like a hamster on a wheel. Grabbing the phone, she called Molly. The other woman and Kit hadn’t gotten off to the best start—and the fault, Kit knew, had been hers. She was protective of the guys and untrusting of anyone she didn’t know. But Molly was a rare creature in Hollywood: a warm, loving human being who was fiercely loyal to her man and to her friends.
She’d quietly become a deeply trusted friend of Kit’s, someone without an agenda and honest to the bone. Becca was wonderful too, but the makeup artist was so much on Kit’s side that her advice was often one-sided. She was the kind of friend who’d cheerfully help Kit bury a body.
Molly, in contrast, never sugarcoated her answers, conscious Kit needed a sounding board who saw her flaws as well as her good points. She’d help bury that body too, but not until she’d grilled Kit on the facts and made her own decision as to the merits of the hypothetical murder. And, critically, she was friends with Noah as well, knew he was far more than just a promiscuous rock star.
“Hi, Molly,” she said when the other woman answered. “Did I wake you?”
A laugh. “It’s only eight thirty, Kit.”
“Right.” Kit groaned. “This filming schedule has reset my entire body clock. I’ll be fast asleep in another few minutes.”
“I can’t wait to see the movie.” Molly’s smile was in her voice. “Charlie’s a huge fan of the series, and she got me hooked when we were in high school.”
Kit hadn’t yet met Molly’s best friend, but she had a feeling she’d like the other woman. “Want to come to the premiere as my date?”
“Are you serious?” Molly uttered a wordless sound of excitement on the heels of her question.
“Absolutely.” A smile tugged at Kit’s lips, the other woman’s joy was so infectious. “I was going to go on my own, but it’d be fun to have the company.”
“I’d love to!”
They talked about the future premiere for a while longer before Molly said, “What’s the matter?” Her voice was gentle, caring. “You don’t sound like yourself.”
Kit had called Molly for a reason, but she still had to fight to speak; it all just hurt too much. Like a cold, icy weight sitting on her chest, crushing and crushing. “It’s about Noah,” she said, having already trusted the other woman with the ugly truth of what Noah had done.
The only other people who knew were Becca and Fox. Seeing Kit nearly every day thanks to their shooting schedule, Becca had picked up on Kit’s giddy happiness then on her devastation, and connected the dots.
As for Fox, he’d bumped into her in the corridor after she ran out of Noah’s hotel room, had held her safe while she sobbed, her heart in pieces. He’d kept her secret too, never let on anything to David and Abe, though the other two band members had to have guessed something was going on with her and Noah.
Now, Kit didn’t betray the fact Noah had ended up stone drunk in a dive on the wrong side of town, saying only that he’d come back into her life. “I don’t know what to do, Molly.” The confession emerged in a rasped whisper. “I know he’s not good for me, but”—she curled her fingers into her palm, admitted the truth—“I still miss him. Like a part of me was torn out and there’s this hole there.”
“Do you want to try again with him?”
Kit was shaking her head before Molly finished asking the question. “I’ll never trust him again.” How could she ever forget that horrible scene he’d set up for her, ever forgive him for humiliating her with such cruelty?
“I can understand that,” Molly replied. “What you said, about having a part of you ripped out—perhaps you need to find a way to allow that wound to heal.”
“By accepting Noah in my life?”
“I’m not going to tell you to do that, Kit, not after the way he hurt you. I will ask a question though—if he disappeared from your life forever, would you be happy?”
Kit thought of her panic the night Noah had called her, the cold terror that had gripped her throat and squeezed. “No.” Her breath hurt. “What am I going to do, Molly?”
Kit got through the next day by focusing on work with grim-minded determination; she even managed to laugh at the wrap party.
“This is relief laughter,” she said to Cody, one of her costars. “No one needs to wear that much makeup.” Her hair was still heavily damp from showering the cosmetics off. “You have no idea how tough it is to wash off full-body avocado-green goo.”
The chiseled-jawed actor pressed a kiss to her cheek, his teeth gleaming Hollywood-white against the ebony of his skin. “You were a babe, even in green.”
“Still not dating you.”
“You’re gay. I don’t want to be your beard.”
Cody wrapped an arm around her shoulders. “You sure?” His dark brown eyes turned soulful. “I’d be the best boyfriend you ever had. No pressuring you for sex, willing to share chores and happy to go shopping.”
Kit snorted. “You hate shopping and you have a gazillion maids.” Hugging him around the waist, she leaned into his muscled warmth. “And sex would be nice.” Too bad her body wanted a man who’d made it clear multiple times that he didn’t want to “fuck” her.
“If you insist.” Cody sighed. “I’ll pop a pill, get it up.”
“You’re a riot.” Leaving him with a mock punch to the rock-hard abs that decorated the bedrooms of teenage girls across the country—regardless of the fact that he was, in fact, openly gay—she went to talk to Becca.
It was an hour later that she slipped out. Cody left with her and Casey, eager to head home to his steady boyfriend. That didn’t stop the incorrigible flirt from teasing Casey—who was about as straight as they came. Fighting not to laugh as Casey gave Cody the cool Marine stare that said he was not amused, she wasn’t ready for Cody’s sudden swearing.
“Damn it to hell! Some asshole’s slashed my tires!”
Ice trickled down Kit’s spine. “I’m so sorry, Cody. It might’ve been my stalker.” The disturbed man had never before struck inside the studio lot, but…
“Nah, I don’t think so, babe,” Cody said, hunkering down to look at the tires. “Everyone knows I play for the home team, so no reason for your stalker dude to get his panties in a jealous knot. Probably just some fuckwit getting his rocks off.”
“I agree with Cody,” Casey said, a frown in his eyes as he took in the damage. “Your stalker believes you two are married, and Cody’s no threat to that.” He squeezed the other man’s shoulder. “I can organize a tow for you.”
“Thanks, man.” Cody rubbed his face. “I’m gonna call my sweetheart for a ride.” He leaned into Kit’s tight hug. “Aw, don’t look so pissed, Kit. It’s only tires—gotta remember that and not let this gutless weenie ruin our night.”
“Gutless weenie?” she said on a surprised laugh.
“Yep. No guts and a tiny dick.”
Kit and Casey stayed with her fellow actor until his boyfriend arrived. As the two men were happy to wait together for the tow truck, Kit and Casey got into their respective cars to head out of the lot. Kit hadn’t touched a drop of alcohol at the party. She needed her head on straight tonight.
Taking a deep breath, she turned in the direction of Noah’s home.
She was halfway there when it struck her: she’d never actually been to Noah’s house. Back when they’d been close, it hadn’t been a big deal. Noah had said he liked the feel of her place, first at the town house, then at her current home. It had made her happy at the time, but now…
Her fingers gripped the steering wheel so tight that her bones pushed up white against her skin. “No way am I inviting myself to his house if he doesn’t want me there.” And since this was one conversation she didn’t want to have in public, she turned the car around. Behind her, Casey was probably wondering if she was lost.
Sending Noah a message at a red light, she didn’t check for a response until she was home.
On my way. –Noah
He always did that, always signed his messages. As if she might forget who he was, despite the fact he’d been one of her most frequent contacts at one time. When she’d ribbed him about it, he’d shrugged and given her that crooked smile she could never resist.
Not back then.
Heart aching at the sweet poignancy of the memory, she put her keys and phone on the kitchen counter, then hunted in her freezer until she found a couple of gourmet pizzas. Even she couldn’t mess up pizza. She turned the oven dial to the correct temperature and, while waiting for it to heat up, went into the bedroom to change into black yoga pants and a fitted dark blue T-shirt.
Hair mostly dry at this point, she combed it into a loose ponytail, her eyes on the mirror and on a face the tabloids had called “fugly” when Kit had been at the awkward adolescent stage. As in, how could two people as genetically blessed as Parker and Adreina Ordaz-Castille sire such a fugly child?
Those same tabloids now called Kit “a mix between Grace Kelly and Sophia Loren.” She snorted. Yeah, no matter how much smoke the media blew up her ass, she wasn’t about to get a big head. Neither was she about to forget that Noah would rather sleep with random groupies than with her.
A jagged breath.
Heading back into the kitchen, she slid the pizzas into the oven and began to make a green salad. She went to grab a bottle of wine halfway through, froze. No, she wouldn’t give Noah alcohol. Not until she knew if the other night had been a one-off or if he had a drinking problem.
She decided to make iced tea instead, heavy on the honey. Noah had a liking for the stuff, though she didn’t know where he’d picked up the taste.
The kitchen was redolent with the smell of bubbling cheese when Butch called to say Noah was heading up to the house.
It was time.