Luca came out right then with a loaded antipasto platter and they dug in.
“I swear this is the only place I actually eat eggplant,” Noah said, reaching for more.
“I’m all about the olives, man. And those weird pickled pepper things.”
“Those are goo—” Noah froze, his eyes on the woman who’d just stepped out onto the patio.
Never would he mistake Kit’s profile for someone else’s. About to raise his hand, alert her to his and Abe’s presence, his brain finally caught on to the fact that she had a male hand on her lower back. That hand was attached to a man who looked vaguely familiar.
“What’s so interesting?” Abe looked over his shoulder, blew out a breath. “Dude works with Kit, doesn’t he? I remember him from that awards ceremony.”
Noah’s brain clicked. “He wrote the script for Last Flight—she liked working with him.” All at once, he could remember every good thing Kit had said about her date. “Terrence Gates.”
“Maybe they’re working together again.” Abe returned his attention to the platter.
“Yeah, Kit mentioned a new project,” Noah said, but from the way the guy had just reached out to touch Kit’s hand across the table, it was obvious this was a date. He knew he should stop looking, stop watching, but he couldn’t help himself. The candlelight caressed Kit’s face, made her skin glow and her eyes sparkle. Or maybe the glow was because of Gates.
They hadn’t sparkled for Noah in a long time.
“Shit man, we can leave, eat somewhere else.”
He jerked his attention to Abe’s keen gaze. “No. If we do, we’ll only draw attention to ourselves.” Right now, their position made them all but invisible to Kit and her date.
Abe leaned in close, the candlelight throwing shadows on his face. “Then stop staring at her.” A grim order. “I don’t know what you did to mess it up with Kit, but you did. Now live with it.” Pausing to take a drink of the ice-cold water one of Luca’s brothers had placed on the table as they took their seats, he said, “She looks happy. You want to change that?”
Noah’s hand clenched around his own glass. “No.” Forcing his gaze off Kit, he tried to keep it on the food. He knew it was delicious, but he couldn’t taste a bite because he was trying so hard not to look at the only woman who had ever been his friend.
Leaving ten minutes after Kit and her date finally headed out, Noah and Abe didn’t speak much. When he would’ve dropped the other man off at his place, Abe shook his head. “You know what I learned when I ended up drinking myself into the hospital?”
“I don’t need secondhand therapy.” Noah’s hand flexed and tightened on the steering wheel.
“Yeah, well, you’re going to get it. You can’t be alone tonight, Noah. You’re going to go do something stupid.”
“I won’t.” He swallowed. “I promised Kit.”
“There are plenty of kinds of stupid, and I bet you can find a loophole of stupidity.”
Noah wanted to disagree, couldn’t. “What do you want to do?”
“Go do something stupid together.” Stretching out in the passenger seat, Abe grinned. “Let’s go have an impromptu party at Fox and Molly’s. We’ll shanghai David and Thea along the way.”
“You shanghai Thea. I’m not feeling that stupid.”
Abe laughed and Noah felt his lips twitch. It was good to have friends who gave a shit.
And friends who laughed and joined in with their plan for a party, complete with junk food Abe and Noah had picked up along the way. Noah ended up with a guitar in his arms. He always had one nearby. This one had been in his car. Not one of his more expensive ones in case it got stolen, but a solid model. Feeling the strings thrum under his fingertips, he found a calm that was so often missing in his life.
It was Fox who’d given him music, having already had a basic command of the guitar thanks to his grandfather. He’d taught Noah the beginnings of it the week before their lessons properly started. Noah had found a sweet salvation in the strings. When he played, he could forget for a while, go to another place.
Kit had once called it a meditative space.
Noah didn’t think of it like that. He thought of it as escape.
So he played for his friends and with them, and when David drew Thea into a dance, he increased the tempo and the rhythm while Fox took a pair of drumsticks David must’ve had on him and drummed out a beat on a side table. Abe, meanwhile, had Molly in his arms, the two of them swaying together with the ease of friends.