Moving on from him, really moving on, was terrifying and freeing… and heartbreaking. She’d dated since that ugly night, but part of her had held back, secretly hopeful. No more. It was time to erase that hope, walk away from it forever.

Ducking into a restroom on the way to the makeup trailer where Becca was working, Kit locked the door and tried to stifle the sobs that threatened to break out of her. Her chest hurt, her body ached, her eyes burned, and her breath had turned choppy. Two tears rolled down her face, but she managed to swallow the rest, managed to learn to breathe again after five minutes of trying.

After washing her face at the sink and patting it dry with tissues from the dispenser, she dug around in her purse for her compact and lipstick and repaired the damage. She was good at hiding it, had learned all about makeup from her mother. Adreina had taken her in hand for two weeks after she turned fifteen, given her lessons.

Kit planned to teach her own daughter too—if that daughter wanted it. At fifteen, Kit had still been in the fugly stage and sitting in front of a mirror with a supermodel by her side had only highlighted her flaws. Despite that, she’d loved those hours with her mom, just the two of them for once—and Adreina had never once put her down. Rather, her gorgeous, confident mother had told her to look bullies in the eye and say fuck you.

Those memories were some of the most cherished of Kit’s childhood.

Checking her face afterward, she caught her own eyes in the mirror. The camera apparently loved her eyes—the critics raved about how expressive they were, how much she could communicate with just those two amber orbs.

Today her eyes revealed bruised pain and a searing sense of loss.

Becca would take one look at her and know something was wrong, regardless of the stellar job Kit had done on her face. Kit couldn’t handle her friend’s perceptive mind right now, so she did what she tried very hard never to do with her closest friends: she put on a mask.

Closing her eyes, she took a deep breath and thought of a bit part she’d played right when she’d started out in the industry. It had been of a “girl next door” whose only job had been to smile and flirt with the coffee guy who was the heartthrob, thus giving the heroine a reason to act jealous. It hadn’t been the greatest script, but it had paid her rent that month.

It was also perfect for today. Her eyes filled with cheerful joy, her lips curved, and suddenly she wasn’t Kit anymore but that happy, uncomplicated girl next door. If only the transformation wasn’t simply skin deep.

Noah picked Abe up around seven, the two of them having decided to grab a bite together after the keyboard player got into the city. “Any preferences?”

His mahogany skin gleaming with health after his camping and hiking vacation, Abe rubbed his hand over his clean-shaven skull. It was a very conservative look for the other man; he usually rocked color, with patterns razored into his close-cut and tightly curled hair. Noah hadn’t seen this look since soon after they first arrived in Los Angeles as eighteen-year-olds full of dreams.

“Remember that Italian place your bud Esteban showed us last time he was in the city?” Abe said after a second’s thought.

“Yeah.” Noah had enjoyed that restaurant too. It was run by a family of six who all seemed genuinely happy to be part of a family business. No hidden surliness or frustrated ambitions.

The eldest son, Luca, worked the door and took care of the guests. The father was the head chef, with the only daughter in the family his apprentice. The mother was a pastry chef in charge of desserts, and the two younger sons waited tables. One was studying management, the other human relations, both in preparation for opening a second family-run place.

Noah knew all that because Luca had sat down with him, Esteban, and the guys during their first visit. They’d ended up being the last people in the place that night, but rather than hurrying them out, the kitchen had sent out extra platters full of delicious bites, and the younger sons had kept topping up their drinks.

Needless to say, the five of them had left a gigantic tip.

“Here.” He passed Abe his phone. “Give them a call while I drive. They might be full up—it was a popular place the last time we were there. Number’s under Meluchi.”

Abe made the call, and from what Noah heard, it appeared the person on the other end well remembered their table. “We in?” he asked Abe after the other man hung up with a laugh.

“Yeah.” Abe put the phone in the cup holder. “They’re setting up an extra table for us on the patio. Apparently it won’t have a view, but fuck the view, I want the food.”

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