Kit’s stomach flipped. The outdoor festival was out of town, which meant everyone would expect her to share Noah’s bus. Zenith’s location made any other option impossible.
So far, she and Noah had gotten away with public “dates” and one night where he’d stayed in her guest bedroom, but there’d be no way to avoid the intimacy forced by the festival.
“Is it really worth it?” she said to both women.
Molly, who knew all about her history with Noah, touched her hand again, this time with the gentleness of a friend attempting to offer comfort. “Noah’s really happy to be able to help you. I think he’s…”
Thea sighed when Molly faded off. “Seriously you two, give it up. Information is my job. I know you”—a glance at Kit—“and Noah actually had a thing a while back, but since you kept it private, I didn’t interfere. Clearly it didn’t end well?”
Kit nodded, unable to say anything further.
But Thea was smart and she’d had her own bad breakup. “If it was caused by what I think caused it, then I give you major props for not cutting off his balls and throwing them in his face.”
“He didn’t cheat,” Kit said, because to cheat, you first had to make a commitment. Noah had never given her that.
Theirs had always been a mirage of a relationship.
Standing on the main stage at Zenith on Friday morning, Noah plugged his guitar into the amplifier, checked the settings, and played a short solo—or tried to—to test the sound. A screech of feedback had him stopping with a wince. “Maxwell!” he yelled to the crew chief, who was working out in front of the stage. “You trying to blow out my eardrums?”
“If I was,” the bearded man yelled back, “they’d have gone boom!”
“Yeah, yeah.” Noah hunkered down to look at the various cables and connections, saw the problem just as one of Maxwell’s people came up and fixed it.
“Sorry, man,” he said to Noah. “Totally my screwup.”
“Forget it.” Shit happened. That was why Schoolboy Choir was out here this morning checking everything. They’d kick off the festival tonight with a big show, then do another set Saturday afternoon. The festival officially ended Sunday at midday, but Friday night and Saturday were the big events.
Zenith was one of Noah’s favorite festivals. This stage and the two smaller stages to the left and the right, open fields between them, were the only “buildings” around for what appeared to be miles. People brought their own tents to camp in, and the city supplied sanitation and medical facilities, while food trucks were plentiful.
Unlike other festivals that often descended into mud and alcohol-fueled fights that messed with the music, the organizers had done a great job of keeping Zenith wild—sometimes crazy wild—but trouble-free year after year.
Part of it had to do with the fact the festival was out in the middle of nowhere, which tended to create more of a tight atmosphere. The other factor was that it was a long haul to get here—the only people who made it this far were the true music fans. And they came in their thousands.
The grounds wouldn’t open for another four hours, but long lines had already formed at the gates as people waited to grab the perfect spot for their tents and catch some of the warm-ups.
“Yo, Noah,” Abe called out from where he stood by the keyboard. “You ready to try a run-through?”
“Yeah, let me just check this is good first.” This time it was pure, raw music that poured out of the speakers.
A cheer came from the direction of the far-off gates.
He smiled. “We got an audience boys, so let’s make it good.”
“I always make it good,” Fox said with a slow grin, cupping his hands around the microphone but keeping his head turned so his distinctively gritty voice wouldn’t carry. “Always.”
“All talk,” David said from the back, playing a quick beat that ended with a clash of the cymbals. “You know the quiet ones are the doers.”
“You white boys keep on talking.” Abe ran his fingers over the keys of his keyboard. “Meanwhile, the brother over here will smoke your asses.”
“Who you calling a white boy?” David said before bringing down the sticks in a fury of sound that cut off abruptly as he did that thing where he could simply shut down the drums.
Noah came in with his guitar right on cue, Abe flowed in, and then they all stopped and Fox’s voice roared out over the microphone.
It was like they’d never had the post-tour time off, the meld was so flawless. Over a month they’d gone without playing a proper set, and now it felt like coming home. He caught Abe’s grin, heard the sheer joy in Fox’s voice, sensed it in the flourishes David threw into the beat, felt it in the way his own fingers caressed the strings.