Noah’s responding glance was unexpectedly grim. “How about if you get caught being my date? What’s Thea going to say to that?”
She shrugged. “I’ve been photographed with the band so much no one takes any hookup rumors seriously anymore.” That wasn’t quite true, but her PR person could spin it that way.
Thank God Thea had decided to take Kit on as a client. Thea hadn’t really had the time, not with handling Schoolboy Choir and a few legacy clients, but when she saw Kit beginning to drown under the deluge of publicity after Last Flight, she’d stepped in.
“You sure?” Noah returned his attention to the road, his shoulders no longer as stiff, his jawline relaxing. “It won’t be fun.”
Kit’s heart tried to read hopeful, romantic things in Noah’s response to the idea of her company. She shut it down with teeth-clenched will. “That’s what friends are for.”
Noah fell asleep at three that morning, was awake by six. As far as nights went, it hadn’t been a bad one. He’d slept deeply from start to finish. After showering and shaving, he pulled on a pair of jeans so ragged he found new tears in them daily, grabbed a mug of coffee and his guitar, and went to sit by the pool.
Though he’d meant to work on new material, he started to play the song about a sparrow caught in a net, its wings broken, who somehow found the strength to fly free. Kit saw hope in that song, saw courage. Noah didn’t have the heart to tell her it was about death. Because that sparrow with his broken wings would never be able to fly. He’d fall to the earth, lie bleeding until he breathed his last breath.
The only possible freedom was the final one.
Noah sang softly as he strummed the guitar, fully conscious that this song could be seen as a suicide note. It wasn’t and never would be. He might’ve fucked up when drunk out of his skull, but he’d never consciously chosen death. That meant little though, not if he was holing up in motel rooms and shoving poison into his veins. The choice might not be a conscious one, but it was still a choice.
Like the choice he made at eleven that night when the nightmares became too loud, the demons too vicious. It was painfully easy to find women who wanted to screw him. At least the pitiless god who’d given him this life had also given him looks that made women gravitate toward him. He picked up a starlet who had lips plumped up with filler and breasts taut with silicone, and he fucked her against the brick wall behind a club after she gave him head.
When they were done, she called him “baby” and slipped him her number. He didn’t even know her name until he glanced at the little piece of paper. Waiting until she was back in the club, he scrunched up the note paper and threw it in the dumpster not far down the alley. Then he walked down the street and toward another bar bursting at the seams.
There was a line, one he could’ve easily circumvented, his face so well known that he didn’t have to introduce himself to the bouncers. But he didn’t even have to go that far. Two giggling brunettes in skintight minidresses waved at him, and when he smiled and crooked a finger, they squealed and ran over. He walked them back to his car, drove them to his place—the place to which he’d never once invited Kit.
He didn’t take them into the house, however, but into the little guesthouse his architect had talked him into. There was nothing of him in the guesthouse. It might as well have been a hotel room. But it had beds. He picked one—and then he spent the next three hours fucking both brunettes.
It didn’t silence the screams in his head, but for the moments that he was this base, rutting creature, he wasn’t Noah any longer, and if he wasn’t Noah any longer, then he didn’t have to be that scared little boy either. He just became nothing. Empty.
Afterward, he slapped one of the brunettes on the butt and said, “I’ve called you a car.”
She gave him big, hurt eyes. “You’re kicking us out?”
“You knew the deal.” The hurt was well-practiced. “If you wanted the white picket fence, you wouldn’t have come home with me.” Noah’s reputation left no room for misconceptions or false hopes; he’d never made any effort to hide his activities and proclivities.
The brunette got up with a sniff while her companion leaned over and tried to kiss Noah. “No kissing,” he snapped, hauling her back with a hand fisted in her hair. He didn’t know why he’d made that stupid rule—it wasn’t as if it changed anything, but his heart insisted on thinking that it did, that he could keep part of himself pristine.