“Ready to go up?” he asked, the light in his eyes almost boyish. “Wait, hold on a sec. I bought some stuff for brunch.”
As he went to the car to grab the bags, she found herself hesitating. It was early now. If he planned on having brunch with her, that meant they’d be together for hours. She wasn’t sure she could handle that, but the light in his eyes, she hadn’t ever seen that. Not even their first time around.
She was such a sucker. She had to say no, had to back off before she placed herself in harm’s way again.
“Done.” He put the grocery bags in the plane, turned. “We can catch the sunrise if we take off now.”
Kit inhaled, held the breath before releasing it in a slow exhale. “Noah, I’m—”
Smile fading, he met her gaze, the dark gray of his eyes empty of that bright, unexpected light. However, instead of offering to take her back to the city, he braced a palm against the plane and said, “I’m not giving you up, Kit.” His jaw was granite. “You’re too important to me.”
Not important enough.
She barely bit back the angry words. They’d been through that, and if she kept dwelling on it, it would only make her bitter and broken, and poison whatever relationship remained between them. “What are we doing, Noah?” she said quietly. “You know this won’t work.” They’d never been meant to be just friends: they could be either passionate lovers or sworn enemies.
There was no middle ground.
“It can work,” Noah said, as if he could will a simple, uncomplicated friendship into being. “But only if you give it a shot.” He stepped closer, close enough that she could feel the heat of his body. “Don’t throw in the towel on me, on us.” A pause that held like a dewdrop on a spider web, caught between sparkle and shatter. “I need you.”
Her chest ached.
She apparently still had a mile-wide weak spot when it came to Noah exposing his need. He showed it so rarely, asked for something even less. And she had promised to be his friend. She owed it to who they’d once been to give the attempt this one chance at least. “Let’s go watch the sunrise.”
That sunrise was spectacular, coming over the San Gabriel Mountains and bathing the world in a deep gold kissed with pink, but it didn’t hold her attention, not with Noah beside her. He was competent and efficient at the controls, a haunting lightness to him.
“You really love this,” she said, her voice soft with realization.
“Up here, it doesn’t matter who you are, what your sins.” His gorgeous voice poured into her ears through the headphones, made her stomach flutter, her thighs clench. “It’s total freedom. No expectations. No judgments. Just endless sky.”
Kit had never understood why Noah was so deeply unhappy. On paper, his life seemed picture-perfect. Born to a wealthy couple, his father a powerhouse lawyer and his mother a political lobbyist, he’d had the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth since the day he was born. He also openly adored his younger sister, Emily, had invited her along as his plus one to the music awards last year.
Even if it was about shitty parents, that was no cause for such deep anger at life.
Kit knew countless people with parents who couldn’t care less. Some grew up and dealt with it, others were constantly badly behaving teenagers trying to get their parents’ attention, but no one she’d ever met had been this angry—least of all anyone who’d found a passion in life and followed it. Her acting had been her lifeline, but while Noah lived for his music, it didn’t seem to penetrate the hard shell of his anger.
Following Noah’s pointing finger, she saw the tiny figure of a lone hiker waving up at them before the man continued on his journey and they flew on. Noah was right—it was stunningly peaceful and freeing up here.
“I heard about your cosmetics deal. Congratulations.”
Fisting a hand against the impact of his voice so intimately close, her pulse rapid, she said, “It’s not a sure thing yet. Papers still to sign.”
“You know they won’t back out. They’d be idiots if they did.”
“I feel like such a fraud.” It was the first time she’d admitted her fears aloud. “I’m no model.” All of Adreina’s closest friends were fellow supermodels, so Kit had grown up around inhumanly perfect people, knew without a doubt that she wasn’t one of them.
“But,” she added, “it’s such an amazing opportunity that I couldn’t turn it down. Harper says it’ll grow my brand, and the money will be welcome.” Kit had earned a good amount with Last Flight, thanks to the profit sharing deal she’d signed in lieu of payment in advance; at the time, no one had expected the movie to turn into a blockbuster, so the contract had been generous.