“Hey,” Noah said, voice quiet. “I’m sorry. I know you liked him.”
“I did,” she admitted, dropping her head back against the wall. “But don’t feel bad. The way Terrence reacted to the news about us, it made me realize that maybe the man I know from work wouldn’t be the same man in private.”
Noah rose into a seated position, one knee raised, his arm braced on it. Gently gripping her chin in his fingers, he said, “Gates touch you?” Danger glinted in his eyes, deadly intent in his voice.
“No. We spoke on the phone.” The shields around her heart pounded to nothing by his proximity, his protectiveness, and driven by a wave of love that simply would not die, she closed her hand over his wrist. “Fox told me you haven’t been sleeping.”
He dropped his hand from her face, broke her hold.
No major change in his expression, but she knew him, had spent hours studying his face over the years when they’d circled around each other… and in the months when they’d been more than friends. She knew before he spoke that the shutters had come down, that he was about to give her an answer that told her nothing.
“I’ve always had trouble sleeping.” A shrug. “I don’t want to take sleeping pills, so I catch naps when I can—like today. I make up the sleep.”
No, she thought, he didn’t. He was always wired. For a while, way back at the start, she’d thought he might be using, but she’d come to know that Noah didn’t do drugs. He just didn’t get enough sleep, turning jittery and almost too “bright” when the lack came to a head.
He appeared okay right now, but she knew Noah was adept at putting on a persona. “Noah,” she said. “Are—”
“I’m fine,” he bit out, then seemed to consciously force himself to relax. “I’m fine,” he said in a less sharp tone. “Just a few nights of insomnia. I’ll probably crash tonight.”
The emotional shutters had turned into a wall in front of her eyes. She wanted to shove at that wall, to batter it down, but battering against it when Noah didn’t want her inside would gain her nothing but broken bones. “I’ll have to spend the weekend in this bus,” she said as the butterflies finally went still, curling inward in an effort to protect their fragile bodies.
“That’s sorted.” Noah grinned, no tension now that she’d backed off. “I have a sleeping bag over there and I snuck in a single airbed I can pump up.” He pointed to the right, and she saw the neat package of the airbed—so compact he could’ve easily brought it and the small air pump next to it into the bus without anyone being the wiser.
“I’ll even pump it up for you,” he said with a straight face.
She should’ve said they were friends, could share the bed, but she couldn’t. She wasn’t that strong. If Noah was in a bed with her, she’d either curl into him or scream at him while pounding her fists on his chest.
Why don’t you want me?
Why all those other women but not me?
What do I lack?
Her anger was as powerful as the other emotion inside her heart, the one that whispered he was hers. Despite everything, it kept saying he was hers. Delusional heart.
Falling back on a mask that wouldn’t appear a mask, she arched a single eyebrow. “Haven’t you heard? Kathleen Devigny does not do airbeds, darling.”
“Well, I’m not too important for it.” A grin as he shoved a hand through his hair. “It’ll fit in the living area with a little maneuvering so you can have the bedroom. Just chuck out some clothes for me to change into after my shower.”
Kit rolled her eyes and kept her mind resolutely off the fact Noah would be wet and stripped to the skin bare yards from her. “It’s not like I’m going to lock the door and dance naked in here. You can come in.”
She must’ve been a really good actress because he laughed at her quip, and for one instant, they were simply two friends who happened to be sharing a joke.
It was still light when Schoolboy Choir got ready to take the stage, the sky streaked red and orange and indigo with sunset. Noah found himself in the unfamiliar position of preparing to head out to the stage with a woman by his side. He was used to picking up women after shows, but he never had anyone with him before a concert.
It had always seemed as if that would be an intrusion. He liked to get his head in the game, fully into the music preshow. He didn’t want to talk to anyone except the guys sometimes. He certainly didn’t need a groupie coming on to him, expecting him to be happy about it.