“Can we talk about stuff?”

He felt his back stiffen at the careful question. “Yeah.” It came out harsh.

But Kit’s question wasn’t what he’d expected, wasn’t about what had happened to him as a kid. “You don’t like sex, but what about the rest?”

“Jesus, Kit, you know I’ve been around the block. I’ve probably done everything they write about in Penthouse and then some.”

Kit scowled at him over the lip of her coffee mug. “If I come up with something you haven’t done, will you do it with me?”

“Yeah, why not?” If she was still willing to be with him, he’d give her everything he could. “But babe, you’ll be eighty before you unearth anything I haven’t done.”

“Uh-huh.” She sipped her coffee. “Have you ever had a massage from a lover, given one yourself?”

He stared at her, blinked. “No.”

A smug smile. “Oh, what’s that I hear?” She cupped a hand at her ear. “It’s the sound of Noah St. John eating humble pie. Why yes, Kit,” she added in a deep voice, “this humble pie is mighty delicious.”

“Smart-ass.” He grinned. “I thought you were talking about sex stuff.”

“It falls on the spectrum—that’s why they call them massage parlors.”

“Are you going to offer a happy ending?” She was right; it all came down to sex.

Another scowl. “I’m not that kind of girl.” A pointed finger. “And you owe me a massage tonight.”

He went to reply, shut his mouth when he realized that a massage would give him permission to put his hands on Kit. For a while at least, it wouldn’t be about sex. It would just be about touching her, and he wanted to do that. He’d always wanted to touch Kit. “I guess I’d better buy some oil.”

Chapter 34

Kit had no idea what she was doing. Noah needed a counselor, but since he refused to even consider going to see one, they had to stumble through this on their own. Part of that meant reading everything she could online about abuse survivors. She did that during the day while Noah hooked up with David and Abe to go see a set of drums David was thinking of buying.

The first thing that became clear was that Noah’s belief that as a male, he should’ve been able to protect himself, wasn’t unusual. According to the help sites and forums, even small boys picked up and internalized the wider world’s ideas about “real men.” How those ideas had savaged Noah broke Kit’s heart.

In his case, his parents’ actions had further solidified his beliefs. Robert and Virginia had made him feel like he was the one who’d done something wrong, boarding school a punishment. “Bastards.”

Breathing past her fury, she continued to read.

When Becca called her midway through the day to ask her if she wanted to hang out, Kit said, “I’ll take a rain check this time, okay? Thanks for thinking of me though.”

“Of course! I know breakups can be hard.”

“We’re back together,” Kit told her, hope a fiercely optimistic candle in her heart. “Wish us luck.”

Becca paused before saying, “Good luck, Kit.” Her voice was quiet. “I’m sorry, I still don’t think he’s good for you—but if you love him, I’ll back you.”

“You’re a good friend.” One who’d been there for her from her Primrose Avenue days and who’d seen her in the aftermath of the first go-round with Noah. Kit couldn’t blame Becca for her view on Noah, but neither would she let even the closest friend influence how she saw the complicated, talented man she loved.

Hanging up after a lighthearted conversation about monster makeup, Kit continued to read. Enough to know that she could really screw this up. She was so scared of getting things wrong and messing up everything. And she couldn’t talk to anyone without betraying Noah’s confidence.

No, wait. She sat up straight. Fox knows.

Grabbing her phone, she called the lead singer. “Noah told me,” she said and didn’t elaborate. “He won’t go to a counselor, Fox.”

“Yeah, I know.” Fox blew out a breath. “You’re going to have to figure this out between the two of you.”

“I don’t want to mess up.” Already she’d made a mistake in not actually asking him if he wanted to exchange massages. “I don’t want to hurt him.”

“He doesn’t want to hurt you either,” Fox said. “He’s done a piss-poor job of showing it to date, but that guy will walk on hot coals for you if you ask. So I figure you two have a better starting place than most.”

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