“I’ve never seen you in a tux.”
“And you probably never will again,” he muttered as he pulled open the door to the boutique that was their destination.
She saw the dress at once: a dark, dark pink that was almost red, it was sleeveless and had a classic A-line set off with a thin black belt. The neckline was almost straight across with the barest curve while the back zipped up all the way. It had a 50s vibe to it that appealed to Kit. Paired with the discreet diamond earrings her paternal grandparents had given her on her twenty-first birthday, it would be perfect for the luncheon.
This time she didn’t come out and show Noah the dress. Because if he complimented her again while looking at her as he’d done in the other boutique, the anger and frustration and love inside her might erupt into a scream, her fists pounding at him as her fury spilled over.
Shaking, she took a deep breath and put on the mask again.
Noah was smiling when she stepped out, but it faded almost immediately and she knew he’d seen the mask. Too damn bad. “Got it,” she said, and took the dress to the counter before the clerk could come over.
The two of them left the boutique in silence after she paid.
“Noah!” The call came from two excited female voices.
Figuring they were fans of the band, Kit waited a few steps away so Noah could sign autographs. Except these women didn’t want autographs. The top-heavy brunette threw herself into Noah’s arms. “Tuesday night was a-mazing!” she squealed.
Even as Kit’s stomach lurched, bile burning her throat, the other brunette stroked a hand down Noah’s arm. “We haven’t been able to stop talking about it.” Giggles as Noah extricated himself. “If you want us to come over tonight, we’re so ready.”
Noah managed to peel them off, his charming expression never changing—but Kit knew that look. It was the one he used with people he didn’t particularly want to talk to, and yet he’d obviously slept with both these women. What did that make him if not a user? Of course, the women appeared to have gone to his bed with open eyes, but it just seemed wrong that he could dismiss them so easily.
Feeling sick about the whole situation, she avoided his gaze and was about to walk away on her own when she realized Basil was lurking in a doorway not far in the distance. If she did what she wanted to do, the shots would be all over the tabloids tomorrow, telling a story she didn’t want anyone to know.
So instead, she maintained her bored waiting face and the next time Noah looked over, pointed at her watch. As if she was nothing more than a friend annoyed by the delay. Grinning, he took his leave of the women, who both pouted in disappointment.
He didn’t say anything about the incident and neither did she. Good. Because the humiliating thing was that while Noah had been fucking not one but two women, she’d been lying alone in bed, trying to get over him.
Part of her heart finally, finally turned to stone.
Noah knew the mood was broken. For a few wonderful hours, he and Kit had managed to recapture the friendship that had made him understand joy, but it was now as out of reach as the moon, the atmosphere in the car tense enough to snap.
“Noah,” Kit said into the silence. “Do you like women?”
“What kind of question is that? You know I like women.”
“No, you use women. But do you actually like them?”
He scowled. “Sure. I like you and Thea, Molly and my sister, for starters.”
“Then why do you treat your lovers that way?” Turning in her seat, she looked at him with eyes he couldn’t read, the shutters down and locked. “As if they’re worth nothing?”
Noah couldn’t believe she wanted to talk about this. “Jesus, Kit, they weren’t my lovers. They were just women I—” He cut himself off before he spoke words even he knew would make him appear an asshole. “We weren’t lovers.”
“Have you ever had one? A lover?”
Yeah. You. They might’ve never so much as kissed, but during their friendship Kit had known him better than any of the women he’d fucked ever would. He’d given her his heart in the songs he wrote that weren’t the hard rock for which Schoolboy Choir was known, and she’d held that heart cupped safely in her hands.
“No,” he said aloud. “Why settle for just one?” It came out a brittle question.
Kit shifted to stare out the window.
They didn’t speak again until she got out of the car at her house. “Thanks for the company,” she said and was gone.
Entering the house, Kit went to her room and hung up the dress so it wouldn’t wrinkle. Then she sat on the edge of her bed and, for the last time, faced all of her most secret dreams when it came to Noah and accepted that none of them were going to come true. The end. Run credits.