His hand was the one that trembled this time. “Just be my friend.” Laugh again with him, remind him that life wasn’t only nightmares and pain, make him feel as if he could be a better man if he tried hard enough. “Don’t give up on me. Please don’t.”

“I want a promise,” she said after too long, her tears having soaked the shoulder of his shirt.

Wary, he looked at her as she sat back up, her eyes puffy and her cheeks shining with the remnants of her tears. There were some promises he simply couldn’t make, some promises he was too broken to keep.

Taking a shuddering breath, she said, “Promise me that you’ll never again even think of doing what you almost did in that motel room.” A harsh demand. “You promise me, Noah, because I can’t go through that again.”

“I promise,” he said without hesitation. “Never again.”

Kit grabbed one of the pretty napkins she’d put on the table and wiped her face before dropping her hand to her thigh, her fingers clenched around the napkin.

He waited, his pulse a huge, loud thing that drowned out his breathing.

“Okay,” she said, so softly it was less than a whisper. “We’ll be friends.”

Kit didn’t know what she was doing agreeing to be Noah’s friend, didn’t even know if they could salvage that relationship from the wreckage. But ten minutes later, as she watched him pull the ice cream from the freezer, she couldn’t deny the need inside her.

As she’d confessed to Molly, she’d missed him too. So much.

She wished she didn’t, would do everything in her power to bury that need going forward. It wasn’t the right way to enter into a friendship, but it was the only way she might survive it. “One scoop for me,” she said, when he began to dish out the dessert.

“You sure?” A sinful, tempting smile. “You love this stuff.”

Butterflies in her stomach, an acute pain in her heart. “I’ll get sick if I start eating too much rich food at once—and I already had pizza.”

“Right, I never thought about that.” Putting a couple more scoops in his bowl, he placed both bowls on the table before returning the tub to the freezer.

The light caught on the gold of his hair, the strands silky and bright and just long enough to slide forward until he shoved them back with a thrust of his hand. She’d always loved Noah’s hair, always wanted to touch it. Taking a quiet breath that hurt going in, she forced herself to look away.

Noah wasn’t for her, would never be for her.

“So,” he said, sliding into his chair, “are you excited about your full-fat latte tomorrow morning?”

She’d made that laughing comment in an interview. It messed her up to know he’d watched it, remembered. “I decided to save the lattes for next week, when my stomach’s had time to recover from the movie diet.” It was all but impossible to sound natural when her emotions were a black turbulence inside her.

“You know who to call if you want company.” Noah’s voice was easy, but the renewed awkwardness between them was a living, breathing entity.

Kit didn’t know what to say, so she just ate a spoonful of ice cream to cover her nonresponse. “What are you and the rest of the guys planning to do now the tour’s over?”

“Work on a new album. We’ve got some material and ideas already, but it’s time to sit down, start putting the pieces together.” He shrugged. “Fact is, we could put out an album next week if we wanted to, but it wouldn’t be us.”

Kit understood what he meant. Schoolboy Choir was so successful not because they released album after album, but because the albums they did put out were stellar. “That song,” she said. “About the sparrow. Will it be on this album?” Noah had sung it to her when they’d been friends but had said it wasn’t ready for recording.

“No. It’s not exactly Schoolboy Choir material.”

“What are you talking about? It’s amazing.” A harsh, beautiful ballad of such heartbreaking vulnerability that it had made her cry.

Noah just shrugged.

Before, she would’ve pushed, but she didn’t have that right anymore. Couldn’t have it for her own emotional health. “Well,” she said, “if you don’t release it, record it for me. I’d love to hear it again.”

“You’ll just have to put up with me.” A devastating smile. “I’ll sing it to you anytime you want.”

There was a time when Noah’s offer would’ve made her go all melty inside. Now it just hurt.

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