“I don’t know,” he said. “Her fiancé’s a bit of an asshole who keeps her on a short leash from what I’ve heard.”
Abe went very, very still. “He hurting her?”
“No signs of that—all I heard is that the guy’s a control freak,” Noah said evenly, suddenly dead certain Abe’s feelings for Sarah ran far deeper than the other man had ever admitted. Maybe his marriage had simply become collateral damage in the devastating loss that had scarred Abe the same year he married.
“He’s a smug fuck too.” Abe’s words were dark. “You should grab that parking spot up ahead. We’re not likely to get anything closer.”
Noah parked, and the two of them got out to walk the rest of the way. They hadn’t bothered to disguise themselves since the worst that would likely happen in this low-key neighborhood would be a teenager or two asking for an autograph. A minute later, they passed a lanky boy strumming his guitar as he sat on the stoop in front of a small, neatly kept apartment building.
The kid’s double take was funny enough that Noah walked up to him and, taking the guitar, strummed a few bars. “Here’s where you’re faltering.” He’d heard it as they walked. “This is what you do to fix it.” Putting his fingers on the strings, he showed the kid how to compensate for the fact he had a pinky that was missing its top half.
The kid’s eyes locked on his fingers, deep grooves between his eyebrows. Taking the guitar from Noah when he held it out, the boy did exactly what Noah had demonstrated. The smile that bloomed on his face was worth all the shit that came with fame. “I didn’t think I could do that,” he said, repeating the riff before he looked up, hope incandescent in his deep brown eyes. “You think I could be like you? Go all the way to the top?”
Noah wasn’t sure he should be encouraging a sweet, normal kid to join his world, but dreams were dreams. “Don’t see why not.” He tapped a finger against the boy’s temple. “Trick is not to try to do what everyone else says you should do—you have to figure out your own unique style. That’s what I did.”
Flexing his left hand, he held it out so the boy could see the fine scars that spider-webbed it. “It had the hell crushed out of it when I was about your age.” A car accident after he stole his father’s Beemer following an argument during a rare vacation week when Fox wasn’t with him. His friend had been forced to stay an extra week at school as punishment for an infraction Noah couldn’t now remember.
“It’s never going to be as strong as my right hand.” It throbbed at night sometimes, a bone-deep ache.
“Wow.” The kid touched his fingers to Noah’s hand. “I never knew that.”
“Most folks don’t.”
He and Abe spent a few more minutes with the kid, and Noah gave the teen his number before they left. It wasn’t something he did often—kids tended to brag, and he had no intention of dealing with thousands of messages. But he didn’t think this kid would boast. Having the number would be enough for him. And if he did ever call, it’d be because he couldn’t figure something out.
Heading back down the street afterward, they made it to the restaurant right on time.
“This is bad.” Abe glanced at his watch with a scowl. “We’re being way too well behaved. What’s next? No shenanigans on tour? No raising hell? Punctuality is a slippery slope, my friend.”
Noah snorted. “Screw bad behavior. I want to eat.”
“Noah, Abe.” Luca Meluchi came over and shook their hands, his grip that of a man who spent his off time fixing up and flipping houses. “Like I told Abe, I squeezed in a table for you on the patio, but it’s kind of stuck in a corner.”
“Every seat here is the best in the house.” Noah grinned. “And forget about taking our orders. Just feed us.”
“Done,” Luca said with a laugh, and led them out the side door and onto the patio.
Seeing the soft semi-darkness of it, the tables romantically small and lit only with candles, Noah glanced at Abe. “Don’t try anything.”
“You should be so lucky,” the bigger man said as they were shown to their shadowy and tight corner, the table right up against the back wall of the restaurant. “You’re not my type.” With that, Abe grabbed the seat that put his back to the rest of the people out here, which meant Noah ended up with his to the restaurant wall, his view of the other tables uninterrupted.
It was the seat he’d have chosen given first pick—and he knew full well Abe was aware of that.