Kit knew he was right. It was infuriating, but he was right. She could lose her entire career because the media and the public were fascinated by a relationship that could never be. The idea of starting from close to scratch again, of going through all the rejections and closed doors, it was hard to think about. But just as hard was remembering the pain Noah could so carelessly dish out.
He’d said he wasn’t going to humiliate her, but how could she believe him, given his track record? She couldn’t. All she could do was trust in their friendship. Because one thing she did know about Noah—he didn’t let his friends down. Come concert time, he was always onstage no matter what he’d gotten up to the night before.
“All right,” she whispered. “But only until Redemption is cast. Whether that’s a yes or a no for me, things should have cooled down enough that Thea can finagle a breakup that leaves us both in a good place.”
She kept on speaking before he could reply. “Everyone understands friends to lovers doesn’t always work. As long as you don’t get caught with a woman in the interim, we should be fine.”
Noah’s face was strained, and she had the feeling this was hurting him, but she couldn’t sugarcoat things. False truths would only hurt them both in the end. As it was, she wasn’t sure she could survive pretending he was hers for even a short three or four weeks. It was like being handed the most wonderful gift in the world, only to be told it wasn’t really yours. It was just on loan. You couldn’t touch, couldn’t have. Just pretend.
“Deal,” he said and took a deep breath, then released it. “If we want to keep the media on our side, we have to give them a bite.”
Kit felt her jaw muscles lock but nodded. “Let’s drive out, grab a coffee.”
“I’ve got a better idea. How about I take you to breakfast at Pierre Baudin?”
“I think you have delusions of grandeur,” she said, relieved to be back on a normal footing. “That place is booked up months in advance.” Even though it had only opened six months ago, Chef Pierre Baudin’s cafe and restaurant was quickly becoming “the” place to see and be seen.
Noah’s eyes sparkled. “Watch and learn.” Pulling out his phone, he made a call, said, “Bonjour, mon ami.” A pause. “Fuck you, JP, you know that’s the only French I know.” It was said with the ease of a man who knew the person on the other end wouldn’t take offense. “Yeah, yeah. So, can you fit in my girl and me today?”
The words stabbed at her.
Kit forced herself to breathe past it. She’d have to do that in public, couldn’t afford to betray just how much the charade was hurting her. The media saw everything, and if this was going to work, she had to put on the performance of her life.
“Thanks—and oh yeah, we come with a paparazzi entourage who’ll splash your place everywhere you want it splashed.” Hanging up on a stream of what sounded like curses on his birth, Noah grinned. “And we’re in.”
“Since when do you know temperamental chefs who’ve taken restaurants to the coveted third Michelin star? And what’s with calling him JP?”
“Remember the whole boarding-school-as-networking thing? JP was there—his full name is Jean Pierre Baudin.” He scowled. “Christ, that means my father was right.”
“Ah well.” She patted his hand. “At least he need never know that you networked your way to a table at the hottest place in town.” Getting up, she said, “Let me change.” While Noah could turn up in disreputable jeans and a plain black T-shirt, his feet clad in heavy black boots with more than one scar and scuff, she had to be done up to the nines or the gossip blogs would immediately start printing tut-tutting stories about how it was a shame she’d let herself go.
Life really was unfair.
The next three days were surreal. Kit had had no idea just how many people had secretly been hoping for a hookup between her and Noah. “It’s like this giant underground network of Noah and Kathleen shippers,” she said to Thea and Molly when she met the two women for coffee later that week. Becca hadn’t been able to make it, so Kit planned to catch up with her the following morning.
Today, she, Thea, and Molly were at a cafe down the road from Thea’s office, seated around a sunny outdoor table. The odd photographer had snapped a shot, but for the most part, they were left alone. Kathleen Devigny with girlfriends wasn’t as good a score, financially speaking, as Kathleen Devigny with Noah St. John.