Once everyone was gone, she said, “We’re taking it into the garden.”
Figuring he might as well indulge her, he began to carry through the pieces. She helped with a few odd-shaped ones, but he was able to handle most of it on his own. “Years of shifting gear,” he told her when she made a comment about how much weight he could lift. “I tend to get antsy day before a show, so I help the crew.” It kept the thoughts from circling in his head.
“Well, I approve,” she said with a slightly wicked smile. “I’ve always liked your arms.”
“My arms?” Having brought in the last piece, he put it down, then held out his left arm. “It’s an arm.”
Kit danced her fingers over it. “A sexy arm. All muscle and sinew.”
“Huh.” He shrugged—if Kit had a thing for his arms, he could live with that. “So, we putting this bed together or what?”
He ended up stripping off his T-shirt a half hour into it since manhandling the pieces under the sunny sky had gotten him sweaty pretty quick. He was aware of Kit’s eyes on him, but she didn’t initiate contact of any kind. Gut tight, he tried not to let that bother him, but it did. He’d seen her with other men she’d dated—she liked to touch.
“You take a vow of chastity or something?” he finally said, trying to make light of his need for contact… for reassurance that she still wanted him.
She looked up from where she was sitting on the ground, screwing in a bolt to keep the fancy iron frame of the bed in place. “I want to talk about that.” Her teeth sank into her lower lip as she tried to tighten the bolt.
“Scoot.” Crouching down, he took over the task. “You have really girly muscles, Katie.”
“Thank you very much.” Sitting with her hands behind her, she said, “You okay to talk?”
No, he was never okay to talk about that.
Kit passed him a second bolt. “I won’t push you,” she said gently. “But Noah, we have to communicate at some point.”
“Damn it,” he said, twisting the bolt too hard and almost snapping it off. “Why can’t we just leave it? I don’t particularly want to keep going over a time I’d rather forget.” Not that the nightmares would permit that.
“I don’t want to talk about the past but about the future.”
He frowned. “Yeah, what?”
“The reason I haven’t touched you today is because I don’t want to screw up,” Kit said frankly. “You’re the most beautiful man I’ve ever seen, but the idea of you flinching from my touch hurts so much.”
His jawbones ached, he’d clenched his teeth with such strength. “I’m sor—”
“I didn’t say that to make you feel bad.” Moving with none of her usual grace, she went around to the other side of the bed and began to loosely fit in the bolts so he could do the final tightening. “I’m trying to be honest, and I need you to be too—neither one of us wants to hurt the other.” A look across the bed, a question in the amber of her eyes.
“Hell, Kit, hurting you makes me feel like a bastard.” He shoved a hand through his hair. “I don’t want to be that guy.” Never again wanted her to feel like an emotional punching bag. Even the thought of those words made nausea roil in his gut.
“And I don’t want to be the woman who makes you feel trapped or broken.” She shifted to slot in the bolts needed on the next part of the bed while he came around to tighten the ones she’d already fitted. “So we have to talk.”
Noah didn’t talk about stuff like this. Even before the incident with the gun, his father had never talked about feelings or any of that shit; Noah had always believed that to be the right way. Men were men and they shut up and dealt with things. Still, Kit was a woman, and women liked to talk. So maybe he could meet her halfway. “What do you want to know?”
“Does it weird you out if I admire your body?” Her cheeks pinked, her gaze brushing over his pecs.
He started to grin because hell, he was a man and the woman blushing while she surreptitiously scoped out his body was the seriously smokin’ Kit Devigny. “I like the way you look at me.”
That part was easy to say, but he had to force out the rest. “You’re a woman. You’re Kit.” Smile fading, he twisted the wrench. “I got a bit of a rep as a homophobe a few years ago because I punched a guy who hit on me, but I don’t give a fuck who anyone fucks or if they like to do a three-way every Thursday. I’m just—I can’t handle male attention if it’s directed at me.” The reaction was visceral and violent.