“Boys.” Kit shook her head on the affectionate word. “Did your pet spider survive?”


“We kept it safe for a while, but the cleaners came in one day while we were out, and we never saw Mr. Legs again.” His muscles began to coil as they turned into the drive that led to the magnificent Beverly Hills mansion that was the site of tonight’s gala.


The Tierney estate belonged to a renowned and somewhat eccentric art collector who also happened to be a close friend of his aunt’s. “Ready for the circus?” he said to Kit. “I heard Tierney has his own personal mummy.”


She reached up to fix his hair, the small intimacy doing things to him he couldn’t name. “We can sneak away and go hunt for it if the gala gets too boring.”


“Deal.”


The limo came to a halt at the bottom of the red carpet, which fell in a cascade down the mansion’s museum-worthy front steps and continued on down the drive until it hit the drop-off point at the top of the circular turnaround for vehicles. Beyond was a much longer drive down which they’d just driven, and on either side of the red carpet—corralled behind thick velvet ropes—buzzed a phalanx of black-tie-clad photographers and reporters who’d been given a media pass to the event.


Noah opened his own door rather than waiting for the limo driver and stepped out while doing up the tux jacket, then held out his hand for Kit. She slipped her warm, slender hand into his, and his skin tightened, his body attuned to her on a level that was primal and hotly possessive.


And then she was standing with him, a stunning woman with a heart big enough to forgive him for the worst mistake of his life, to trust him once again with the gift of her friendship. He wouldn’t fuck it up this time.


No matter how loud the demons howled.


The cameras had started flashing the instant he exited the limo, but they went insane as he and Kit moved down the red carpet. He kept his hand on Kit’s back throughout, loathe to have the other men here believe she was on her own. Because she wasn’t. For this one night, she was his.


“Kathleen! Kathleen! Who’s your date?” a photographer called out. “What’s his name?”


Laughing, Kit turned her face up toward him, then they turned as a couple to the media. The flashbulbs were blinding, questions and exclamations rising in a roar as the photographers and reporters clicked on the identity of her date.


“Jesus,” Noah muttered without making a face because he didn’t want to ruin the photos, conscious this was an important opportunity for Kit. “It’s a penguin suit, people.”


“I hope your passport’s up-to-date,” Kit said on a dazzling smile. “Japan’s calling.”


“You haven’t won yet.” Coiled muscles eased, his cheeks creasing in a real smile. “I’m not getting any excited calls from Thea.”


“Pfft, the night is young, and you’re looking so pretty.” She moved with him to one of the official gala photographers on their side of the velvet rope, posing gracefully beside him. Then, bowing to requests, she stepped away to give the other photographers the solo shots they wanted of her and her gown.


Noah pretended not to hear the bloodthirsty mob calling for his own solo shots. This was why he didn’t fucking wear suits or brush his hair. It made him too goddamn pretty, though at least he’d grown into his face so that he had a harder edge.


Taking out his phone, he grabbed a few shots of Kit. She blew him a kiss, her eyes bright. Grinning at the resulting image, he asked her to strike a pose. The photographers went wild, clicking along with him. When she finally waved them down and walked over, he immediately placed his hand on her lower back, the silken warmth of her a near-painful pleasure.


“I didn’t realize how huge the media presence would be,” Kit said to him as they climbed the steps, Kit holding her dress just an inch off the carpet with flawless grace. “You’ve done me a huge favor, Noah. This kind of exposure…” She shook her head. “Money can’t buy it.”


“I have a feeling Thea leaked the news we’d be here.” Noah had intense appreciation for Thea’s smarts as a publicist. “She probably hooked up with Aunt Margaret to offer media privileges to an extended number of photographers.” A win-win situation for the charity and for Kit.


Kit bit her lower lip. “Of course she did—I didn’t even think about that. Do you mind?”


“Why would I mind? If I can help your career, I will.” Sadly, Kit’s shining talent wasn’t enough—she also had to win the media war, had to become a public darling America and the world wanted to see on-screen. “Speaking of which, you should turn here.” Her position on the steps, with the majestic columns of the mansion behind her, would make for a fantastic shot.


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