It was a vow.
Twelve months later and Noah was in Kyoto, Japan, paying up on his wager. He’d even made it a point to learn about the red tape he’d have to clear to get the plant back home. But, though this was his forfeit, he wasn’t alone on his walk to possible humiliation at the hands of a cantankerous gardener. His lover and best friend walked beside him as they went down the narrow and twisting street at the end of which lived a seventy-year-old man with the reputation of being a bad-tempered oni, or Japanese demon.
Dressed simply in skinny blue jeans, canvas sneakers, and a striped blue-and-white tee, her hair pulled back in a sleek ponytail and large sunglasses on her face, Kit nonetheless looked like a movie star. A very famous movie star whose work in Redemption was getting serious buzz even while the movie was still in postproduction.
“What?” she said, turning to him with a smile.
Lifting their linked hands, he kissed her knuckles. “Just admiring the most talented woman I know.”
“Says the man who wrote the megahit song not only of the year but of the decade.” She wore her delight for him on her sleeve, just as she admitted her love for him without hesitation when asked by the media.
In claiming him so unabashedly, in making it clear she was proud to have Noah St. John as her man, she’d healed things inside him that had been broken so long he’d thought they’d stay that way forever.
“Yeah, that little sparrow’s doing well.” It was a song that still made him hurt, but alongside the pain, he felt a quiet pride—in a way, in setting “Sparrow” free, he’d set himself free too. “There, isn’t that the right place?”
They looked carefully at the kanji the hotel concierge had written out for them, compared the characters against those on the gate. Taking a deep breath when they proved identical, Noah raised his hand to knock.
Three hours later and Kit had never laughed so hard in her life. The little old gardener had turned out to be a fan—not of her, of Noah and Schoolboy Choir. Over the moon that Kit wanted one of his plants, he’d invited them to stay for dinner with him and his utterly sweet wife. After which he’d offered Noah not sake, but an alcohol so potent it smelled like paint thinner to Kit.
Then the gardener had proceeded to drink the bad boy of rock under the table.
Grinning as she poured a thoroughly drunk Noah into a cab while carefully handling the plant, she got them back to the hotel and up to their room.
“Love you, Kit,” Noah mumbled, nuzzling at her as she keycarded their door open and put the plant safely on a little table nearby. “Got your plant.”
“I love you too, but you need to get in bed before you fall asleep against the door.” She managed to push and prod him to the sprawling bed.
Falling flat on his face, he lost consciousness.
It struck her then. This was exactly how it had all begun. With her getting a drunk Noah into bed. But that was the only parallel. This time she pulled off his boots, managed to get off his belt and jeans, even his T-shirt and, after removing her makeup and changing, slipped into bed beside him.
As she pulled the comforter over both of them, she thought back to that night and knew she could’ve never imagined this one. Not just tonight, but all the nights that had led up to this. Noah, her stubborn rocker, had not only kept his word, he’d kept his word so well that the tabloids had thrown up their hands in disgust and stopped following him.
Oh, he was still plenty bad. Put him onstage and he was pure sex and heat and a broken guitar or two. But when he came off that stage, he looked only for “his girl,” for Kit. All that energy and drive he’d spent on hurting himself? It had now become a fidelity and a devotion that made emotion choke her.
When Noah St. John decided to love, she thought as she snuggled up to him, he went all the way. “I’m so lucky to have you,” she said, pressing a kiss to his jaw.
Thick lashes lifted, a moment of pure clarity in the dark gray as Noah wrapped his arm around her waist. “Meant to ask you to marry me, put the ring in the plant soil, but gardener made me drunk. He’s so small. What happened?”
Half laughing, half crying at his adorably astonished expression, Kit kissed his jaw again. “You can ask me tomorrow morning.”
Cuddling her close, he said, “Will you say yes?” It was a sleepy mumble.
“Yes,” she whispered on a smile of pure happiness as he fell back asleep. “I’ll say yes.”