“Hah, nothing makes Cody uncomfortable.” Sounding more at ease, more like herself, she told him about the stunts she’d done herself. “The best was sliding off a motorcycle. Worth all the time it took me to learn it.”
“Jesus, Kit.” His fingers squeezed the steering wheel. “That’s dangerous.”
“That’s why it’s called a stunt. I ended up with a scraped elbow but no other bruises.”
Fighting his instinctive protective response, he said, “I’ll be first in line to see the movie.”
She didn’t ask him to go with her. No surprise. Kit had never asked him to accompany her to an event. He understood why: at first, there’d been too much chemistry between them, the sparks hot enough to burn. Then… then it had become too important.
Noah would give anything to stand next to her while she shone bright, but he didn’t trust himself to be able to keep his emotions hidden when she glowed in front of him. He was fucking proud of her, and he wanted to tell the whole world. Especially the assholes who turned up their noses and belittled her accomplishments by insinuating that her parents had bankrolled her.
He’d seen her work double shifts at the diner, watched her schlep to audition after audition and come back disappointed but determined to try again. Not once had she fallen back on the Ordaz-Castille name—and since she’d made no attempt to court publicity during her teens, no one had recognized her. She’d simply been another young, hopeful actress.
Kit had earned her place in the limelight, and she’d done it on her own terms.
“Did you like New Zealand?” she said before the lengthening silence became painful, full of all the words they couldn’t say to one another. “I never asked.”
Because she’d refused to talk to him then. “Lots of water and sunshine, and the South Island’s crazy beautiful. Me and Abe, we took off for a week to one of the national parks, did white-water rafting, bungee jumped, even walked on a glacier.”
“It sounds incredible.” She sighed. “I’ve always wanted to go down there, never had the chance.”
It was on the tip of his tongue to say he’d go with her, that they could hike through the sprawling parks full of snowcapped mountains and pristine rivers, camp under skies so clear you could nearly touch the Milky Way at night. No photographers, no stalkers, nothing but a wild beauty that would suit Kit’s grounded nature.
He bit back the offer just in time; she’d agreed to come with him today, but he was under no illusion that their new relationship was anything other than brittle. “You’d love it,” he said through the renewed tension in his gut. “If you can swim it, climb it, ride it, jump off it, or hike it, New Zealand’s got things covered.”
Kit had so many questions about the small country that the rest of the drive passed by without further silences. The sky was beginning to lighten in the east when he punched in the code to open the gates to the isolated, no-frills airfield and drove through to the hangar.
“Here she is,” he said once they were inside and by the plane. He patted the side of the Cessna, his nerves in a knot.
It mattered what Kit thought. Always had. Always would.
“She’s not what I expected.” Kit ran her hand along the buffed-clean paintwork. “I mean that in a good way.” A smile. “I expected a new, glossy plane, but she’s got age, character.”
Noah took a breath. “Yeah, she’s got a few miles on her.” Her imperfections were part of why he’d fallen in love with the machine. “I like to think she’s seen the world and now she’s showing it to me.”
Kit felt her heart hitch at the evocative beauty of his words. It was at times like these that it was so difficult to keep her distance from Noah, fleeting moments when he showed her a piece of himself. A real piece, part of the heart he kept hidden so deep that most people never knew it existed. To the rest of the world, he was simply a bad-boy rocker, the most scandalous member of Schoolboy Choir, the one who provided the best photo ops and led the most hard rock lifestyle.
Abe’s former drug use had been tabloid fodder, of course—the paparazzi had hounded him when he was discharged from the hospital after his overdose, but Noah’s liaisons with endless women made for much prettier pictures, especially when he was snapped with a leggy model, actress, or other woman famous in her own right. If he’d kept a little black book, it would’ve been overflowing with A-list names, but Kit knew Noah didn’t keep any records—a man only did that when he wanted to see a woman again.