Her eyes burned. “I love you,” she whispered and pressed her fingers to his lips when he would’ve spoken again. “I love you, but I won’t be an emotional punching bag.”
Noah had never felt like more of a bastard. Kit’s words couldn’t have hurt more if they’d been designed for it—but he knew she hadn’t done that. Her whispered declaration had been too raw, held too much pain. “I’m sorry,” he said, pressing his forehead to hers. “I’m so sorry.”
When he felt wet on his hands, he realized she was crying. “Please don’t. Please,” he begged. “Kit, please.”
Her hands closed over his wrists as she swallowed repeatedly. “Want to go for a walk in the garden?”
Choking on a burst of laughter, he said, “Okay.”
“What’s so funny?”
“I wrecked my garden,” he admitted. “It was pathetic anyway.”
“Noah.” Her mouth fell open. “That was a lovely garden! How bad? Maybe I can—”
Shaking his head, he said, “I really did a number on it. Beyond redemption, I’m afraid.”
“I’ll plant you a new one.”
Noah wasn’t used to putting himself out there. He’d been protecting himself for a hell of a long time. But Fox was right—he was the one who’d screwed up here, not Kit. It was time he acted like a goddamn man and not the scared little kid he’d carried inside for more than twenty years. “Or I could sell my place,” he said, speaking past the huge clawing fist around his heart. “Of course, then I’d be homeless.”
Kit’s hands tightened on his wrists. “We have to figure this out first,” she whispered, and the claws punched in, drawing blood. But then her lips curved. “If you were homeless, I’d buy you food and get you coffee. You could sleep on the sidewalk outside the gate.”
The fist eased open. “Very funny.” He wiped his thumb over her cheekbones to get rid of the remnants of her tears, aware it wasn’t going to be as easy to fix things between them. Kit had let him in the door, but the wound he’d caused tonight wouldn’t heal quickly… if it healed at all.
He went out to the garden with her, staying silent as they walked through the neatly tended pathways. When he reached down to weave his fingers through her own, she curled hers around him, but there was a stiffness to her.
“Noah,” she murmured a couple of minutes later, “I watched that episode of Blue Force again.”
Nausea swamped him, along with a wave of black rage. His fingers threatened to tighten to crushing pressure. “Why?” The single word came out as harsh as broken stone.
A quiet glance that was more of an answer than any words she could’ve spoken. She’d looked because she loved him and she was trying to find a way to help him.
“What did you figure out?” he asked, every muscle in his body so rigid he felt as if he was made of thousands of pieces of steel wire.
“Were you kidnapped as a child?”
He laughed, and it was a broken sound. “That would’ve been simpler.” Tugging Kit against him, he thrust the fingers of his hand into her hair and cupped the back of her head as he pressed his cheek to her temple.
He could feel the tremors running through his body, couldn’t make them stop, the past he’d spent a lifetime trying to bury suddenly shoving at his mind. He’d never, never wanted Kit to know, but she was starting to suspect. Whatever she’d imagined, it couldn’t be as bad as the truth, but he realized at that instant that he couldn’t live with having her guessing, having her hurting for him as she imagined scenario after scenario.
He didn’t know if this was better. It made him feel sick to even think about.
She ran her hands down his back. “Noah, I’m sorry.” Her breath against his neck. “It’s all right. We don’t have to talk about it right now.”
He couldn’t stop the damn shaking, and he couldn’t let go of her. It felt as if he’d throw up, but his body was ice-cold at the same time. When he tried to speak, nothing came out. He was that child again, that small six-year-old boy who couldn’t escape from under the suffocating body of the man who was hurting him.
Shaking so hard now that he felt as if he’d break apart, he turned his nose into Kit’s hair, breathing her scent in an effort to forget the acrid, sweaty, ugly scent of that bed, that room, that man.
“Noah.” Kit’s voice, a little thready but resolute. “Noah, it’s Kit, and we’re standing in my garden after having a really big fight.” She stroked his back again. “Your face looks like you ran into a brick wall. Three times.”