A stroke of his finger over her skin before he released her.
Returning inside, she gave herself a moment to cry and to punch out her rage on the pillows. She hated Noah’s parents right now, maybe even more than the man who’d hurt him.
Heart still thumping after she’d washed off her face, she dug up the sleeping bag she’d bought for a camping trip Becca had organized a couple of years ago. Putting it aside, she changed out of her slip and robe, and into warm microfleece pajamas. By the time she returned to the picnic blanket, Noah seemed totally out of it. Moving quietly, she rolled out the sleeping bag and getting in, turned on her side so she could look at his face.
Even in sleep, there was a tension about his features that said he didn’t rest easy.
Reaching out, she stroked his hair again until the strain seemed to lessen. She kept it up until her own eyes were so heavy and gritty that she fell asleep with her hand lying by his head, golden strands brushing her fingertips.
Noah woke in the hazy gray of early morning, but for once, he felt no sense of constriction, of being trapped. It took him a couple of seconds to realize he was outside in Kit’s garden… and that Kit was curled up on her side in a sleeping bag next to him.
Everything came racing back: what he’d told her, what she’d said, the way she’d touched him.
His heart thudded in a raw combination of anguish and shame and hope. She was still here, so maybe she wasn’t going to kick him to the curb. Maybe.
Moving very, very carefully, he ran a single finger over her cheek. She made a frowning face and snuggled down. He knew he should let her be, but he couldn’t. He had to know how she’d look at him this morning. So he did the same thing again, pressing a little bit harder so it wouldn’t tickle.
This time she didn’t frown, just kind of settled under the touch.
When her eyes opened a few minutes later, he had to fight not to look away. He had to see, because now, while she was unguarded, that’s when he’d see how she really felt. Later, she’d hide any disgust because she was a good person, a kind one. At this instant, she was vulnerable and he’d take advantage of that vulnerability to see… to know.
At first, all he saw was drowsy grumpiness. “I was sleeping.”
“I know.” He kept his hand on her cheek. “I wanted to wake you.”
“You know I’m not a morning person,” came the mutter before she yawned, her gaze clearing.
And then she truly looked at him… and he saw what he’d always seen when Kit looked at him: no shame, no pity, no disgust. Just Kit’s stunning amber eyes looking at him as if she saw something of value in him.
“So?” she said with a scowl. “You woke me. Now entertain the beast.”
He felt his cheeks crease. “I don’t feel sleepy. It has to be at least five hours since we fell asleep.”
“Since you fell asleep.” She poked him in the chest. “I was stroking your hair, remember?”
He did remember. The strokes had been soothing and caressing and just… caring. He’d never had that, never let anyone close enough to show care. “That was nice. Will you do it again?”
“I might.” A sparkle in her eyes, she turned her head to press a kiss to his palm. “But for now I’m going back to sleep.”
He didn’t think she’d be able to fall asleep, but he’d forgotten how often she had to sleep at odd times because of shooting schedules. She was out again in minutes, but that was okay. He could deal now that he’d seen her eyes, seen that she still saw him as Noah, the man she wanted, and not Noah, the boy who’d been helpless in that Cape Cod room all those years ago.
He didn’t know where they’d go from here, but for this one morning, everything was all right, and he could watch Kit while she slept beside him.
Kit groaned as she walked into the kitchen after her shower. “I hate camping.”
“I kind of liked it.” The freedom, the night air around him, the stars above and Kit beside him. It was all he needed.
“Come here, Grumpy Guts.” He held up a plate with a fresh waffle doused in syrup.
Eyes lighting up, she hopped up to sit at the counter and didn’t even protest when he insisted on feeding the food to her, taking a bite now and then himself. “Here.” He handed her a mug of coffee when he saw her glancing around for a drink.
“Mmm, my favorite blend.” Breathing deep, she took a sip. “More waffle.”
Laughing at her tone, he opened the waffle maker to take out the one he’d started cooking partway through their demolition of this one. He got most of the second one since Kit declared herself full after a couple more bites.