His need would’ve made him feel unequal in the friendship, except that Fox had needed a friend just as badly for different reasons. If Noah had parents who, in public, acted as if he mattered, all the while ignoring him in private, Fox’s mother had flat-out abandoned him for her shiny new family.

So they’d become one another’s family, brothers not by blood but by choice.

“Your classmates must’ve pulled a few interesting stunts,” he said, and, when Kit answered with a wry nod, he asked another question. He wanted to hear her speak, see her smile… fix what he’d deliberately broken.

It had been a strange, oddly wonderful, and terribly painful day. Kit didn’t know quite how to process it, so she just shoved everything aside as she’d been doing since the moment Noah picked her up. Living in the moment was the only way she could deal with this.

“Thanks for the flight,” she said as they headed to the car early that afternoon. “It was beautiful.” No lie there, no need to watch her words.

“Anytime,” Noah answered with a smile before his phone went off. “Give me a sec.” His expression darkened when he saw the name on the screen, his answer a brusque “Yeah?”

Walking on to give him privacy, Kit was nonetheless aware of the curt nature of his conversation. He’d unlocked the SUV using the remote by the time she got to it, so she climbed inside and put the picnic blanket and the detritus of their meal in the back.

His jaw was set in a hard line when he got in, white lines around his mouth. “Did you want to stop anywhere on the way home?” he asked after driving out of the hangar, getting back out to lock it, then sliding into the driver’s seat again.

“No.” Kit knew she should keep her distance, but that wasn’t who she was when it came to people she cared about—and hell, that was the wrong direction to take. She couldn’t care about Noah, not that much. But she did. Despite everything, she did, and it was tearing her apart. “Bad news?”

Blowing out a breath, he turned on the music.

Kit kept her silence though frustration churned inside her. He’d always done this with certain questions. Just ignored them. Back when they’d been close, she’d excused it as him not wanting to talk about things that were too personal. Only later had she realized that she didn’t really know much about Noah beyond his current life. Except for the odd comment about his troubled relationship with his parents, his entire past had been a no-go zone.

As a result, she wasn’t expecting him to speak, was startled when he did.

“It was my father.”

Kit took in his rigid shoulders, the hand gripping the steering wheel with bruising force. “What’s happened?”

“Nothing. I’ve been ordered to show my face at some charity gala they’re sponsoring not this Saturday but the next.”

Kit frowned. “You don’t do anything you don’t want to do, Noah.” Anyone who’d had even limited contact with him knew that.

“Yeah, well, he brought my aunt Margaret into it. Aside from Emily, she’s the only person with an actual heart in my family, and she’s the head of the charity.”

He had mentioned his aunt once when Kit complimented him on a shirt he was wearing. He’d said it was from his aunt—she couldn’t remember why they hadn’t spoken more about it, but then Noah was very good at distracting her, intentionally or not. “So you’ll go?”

His hand tightened further on the steering wheel. “Yeah. Fuck.” Exhaling loudly, he seemed to consciously flex his fingers before curving them around the leather again. “I don’t suppose you want to subject yourself to a couple of hours of social torture?”

Kit froze.

“Shit, sorry.” Noah shoved a hand through his hair. “Forget that. No need to ruin your Saturday night too.”

There it was, the out she needed. But she also saw the angry tension in his body, and she remembered the syringe and the motel room and her terror at the thought that she might lose him forever. “I’ll go,” she said before her mind could override her heart. “The idea of rocking a glam gown will motivate me to move during my sessions with Steve.”

Kit liked to eat, but given her profession, that meant she had to stick to a strict exercise regimen—including a two-hour session booked for later today. But even though she’d been known to call her trainer Macho Steve, the Evil Personal Trainer, she generally enjoyed the workouts. “Plus my being snapped at a big event will make my publicist happy.”

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