Grinning, he headed to the other end of the house to grab what he needed. His place was spread out all on one level, but it wasn’t open plan. He liked doors and walls, which was fucked-up, because he didn’t like being locked in. But if he had to be inside, he wanted it to be in small spaces where he could see everything at a glance.
His room in his parents’ home had been huge, a suite far too big for a small boy. Unlike Kit’s toy store of a room, his had been filled with educational items, charts, and books. He’d had his own desk and computer and a rotation of tutors who were on twenty-four-hour call should he have a question about the homework they’d assigned.
His father had him studying toward the SATs before he was five years old—and since study questions were the one time his father had all the time in the world for him, Noah had liked it. If things hadn’t gone to hell just over a year later, he’d probably have turned into a suit-and-tie-wearing robot like his old man. Christ.
As he chucked things into a duffel, he was aware of Kit moving around in the living area—and also aware that she hadn’t gone any deeper into the house. Respecting the boundaries he’d set… and that just felt weird. He’d never brought her here, but now that he had, he wanted her to feel at home. “Hey, Kit!”
“Go left, then out through the first door on your right, before the wall of glass. You’ll like it.”
Following Noah’s instructions, Kit finally ventured out of the living area. She hadn’t wanted to intrude, conscious Noah wasn’t sure about having her here. That hurt, but it was a small enough thing and one she couldn’t cling to if she wanted to give them a real second chance. Instead, she concentrated on the fact he’d invited her to come with him today, went through a narrow door… and into someone’s attempt at a Japanese garden.
She laughed, so delighted she couldn’t hold it inside. “This is terrible!” The plants were all wrong, the placements having none of the peaceful elegance of a garden meant to promote serenity.
Following the insulted sound of Noah’s voice, she found he’d stepped out onto a balcony farther down the house. “I did my best!”
Kit grinned and leaned down to tug up a few weeds. He kept confusing her. He didn’t want her here, but this garden? It was an attempt at creating a piece of her inside his home—because his garden was walled in by wings of the house. As if he was holding her heart inside his protection.
Her chest filled with emotion.
“Who looks after this while you’re on tour?” she asked him when he came over. “They haven’t been doing a good job.” Nothing had been trimmed, the weeds rampant.
“No one. It’s set up with sprinklers, but after a tour, it tends to be a bit of a jungle.” He ran his hand over her hair.
Startled at the unexpected contact, she looked up into those eyes of darkest gray. “What?”
“It’s nice, seeing you here.”
She was still trying to process the words when he turned on his heel to return to his bedroom. As if he’d shown her too much and needed walls between them.
Rubbing a fisted hand over her breastbone, she watched him until he disappeared, and she told herself to have patience and hope. If she didn’t have both, she might as well give up now.
But even as she told herself that, a small, secret part of her remained curled up in a self-protective ball. Because Noah had hurt her once already. So much. And that self-protective part of her wasn’t sure he wouldn’t hurt her again, wouldn’t betray her again.
Noah had stayed over at Kit’s before, but it felt different now. Awkward. He wasn’t sure what they were doing, what he should be doing, but he knew he didn’t intend to mess it up. “Hey,” he said, walking into the kitchen about twenty minutes after they’d arrived back at her place, having once more navigated the paparazzi gauntlet.
There’d been a few loitering at his place too, but most had made the right call and parked out at Kit’s. They were still out there, even though it was now after eight and there was little chance either he or Kit would venture out, given that they’d just returned from Zenith.
“Hey.” Kit’s smile was like goddamn sunshine, going straight through his skin to own him. “Want to help me cook?”
“Sure.” At least it’d keep him busy so he didn’t fuck up. “What do you want me to do?”
“I’m your man.” He was even pretty good at the grilling thing. “Where’s the meat?”