“Noah, are you awake? Are you alive?”
Gut tight and breath shallow at the sign that maybe she hadn’t totally written him off, he grabbed the handset. “Yeah, awake and alive and about to bounce from your place.”
A pause before she said, “What’s wrong with your phone?”
He took it out of his pocket. “Dead battery.”
“I’m good.” He shoved a hand through his hair. “I fucked up, Kit. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have called you.”
“Yeah? So you should’ve just sat in that fleapit and shot poison into your body?” Anger vibrated in her every word. “Damn, I have to go. We need to talk. Don’t leave.”
The dial tone sounded in his ear before he could reply. Putting the handset on the cradle, he sat down on a nearby sofa and pulled off his boots. It wasn’t even a decision that he’d stay. This was the first time Kit had talked properly to him since the night he’d willfully destroyed the best thing in his life.
Self-disgust built in him, but he was used to that. It had lived in him most of his life. He’d done what he had to protect Kit, but he’d hurt her, and that made him a bastard. If she wanted to take a few shots at him, he’d stand there and let her pummel him bloody. It’d be worth it if she’d just talk to him again.
Kit walked into her house at seven that night to the smell of something delicious. Even dog tired as she was, it made her mouth water. A hot, prepared meal sounded like her idea of heaven right then. She’d been planning to eat one of the refrigerated meals she bought by the dozen.
It wasn’t that she was a terrible cook—okay, yes, she was a terrible cook, but she enjoyed trying. Except with such an intense filming schedule, she had zero time. She was either at the studio or sleeping. Thank God she only had two more days to go.
And all of that, she thought as she detoured to her room to drop off her purse and kick off her flats, was just an attempt to distract herself from the fact that Noah was in her house. She could smell him in the air, and this time, there was no alcohol. Just Noah.
Warm and intrinsically male.
Fisting her hands, she made herself remember what he’d done, remember the sight of his body moving sinuously on another woman’s. It twisted up her gut, but the sick feeling was coupled with an anger that had been growing and growing and growing. Tonight it drove her out of the bedroom and to the kitchen, where Noah was stirring something on the stove.
He looked up with a wary smile, his jaw still shadowed but his hair clean and his T-shirt white, his jeans a faded blue. She knew those clothes, had been telling herself to throw them out since the hotel-room ugliness. Pathetic as it was, in the month after it happened, she’d hurt so much with missing him that she’d even put on his T-shirt once.
“Hey,” he said. “It’s not gourmet anything, but I found a pasta sauce mix in your pantry and some spaghetti.”
“Why?” she asked, the question too violent to be kept inside any longer. “Why did you do it, Noah?”
His expression grew dark. Switching off the stove, he gripped the edge of the counter. “Because that’s what I do, Kit,” he said, his voice gritty. “I fuck women. As many as I can.”
She flinched but didn’t back down. “Don’t you do that,” she said across the distance between them. “Don’t you give me some pat, Noah St. John-is-a-bad-boy answer. Did what we had together mean nothing to you?” They hadn’t slept together, hadn’t even kissed, but the thing growing between them, it had been rare, precious. And he’d shit all over it.
“It meant everything,” Noah snapped back, his eyes blazing at her with an intensity the world never saw. “But I’m never going to be that guy, Kit. The one who makes you happy.”
“I was happy. So were you.” She hadn’t imagined his crooked, sexy, private smile or the welcome in his eyes. She hadn’t imagined the hours they’d spent talking. She hadn’t imagined the music he played for her or the way he called her Katie just to rile her up.
“I wanted you as my friend!” Noah’s eyes glittered, strands of golden-blond hair falling across his forehead. “I didn’t—don’t—want to sleep with you!”
The blow landed again, just as hard as it had when he’d said it at the motel. No, harder, because he was sober now. Feeling brittle and bruised, she gave him a tight smile. “You’ve made that crystal clear.”
Noah’s head fell forward, shoulders slumping. “Shit. That didn’t come out right.”