Noah just wanted to kiss her. She got it, got everything.
Noah was so warm and strong against her, his scent making her want to bury her face against his neck, draw it in. And he was being so physically affectionate, nothing anyone would expect from him… so maybe, a stubborn kernel of hope whispered, maybe it was real?
Don’t fall back down that cliff, Kit. He’ll destroy you.
Even as that reminder sliced pitilessly through the hope, Kit accepted the bleak truth that Noah would always be the one. She might one day love another man, but it would never be like what she and Noah could’ve had together. The promise between them, it had been something most people never experienced. It was broken now, shattered so badly nothing could put it back together, but when it had been whole, it had been beyond beautiful, a priceless gift.
Noah could’ve been her heart.
Instead, he’d be her friend with whom she could never quite have a real friendship. And he’d be the man she’d have to kiss before he went onstage in a couple of minutes. She’d have to act the doting girlfriend she’d teased him about being, the two of them kissing and snuggling like a couple in the first flush of love.
She’d thought she was ready, had convinced herself it would be just another scene from this movie they were playing out for the cameras.
Only it hurt so much that her first kiss with Noah would be fake.
Walking up onto the back of the stage with him, she smiled at Molly as the other woman appeared with Fox. She hadn’t seen Abe, or David and Thea yet, but they had to be nearby. Turning into Noah, she took a deep breath. “You know what we have to do, right?”
He raised a hand and cupped her cheek, his fingers in her hair as he leaned in to press his forehead against hers. Holding her just that way, as if she was precious, he said, “You know something?”
“What?” she whispered inside the cocoon he’d created.
“We just gave them the money shot.”
She blinked, startled out of her upsetting thoughts.
Noah had been photographed with women, but he’d never been photographed being tender with any of them. Kit knew, because despite her best intentions, she couldn’t ignore reports about him. Noah never cupped a woman’s face so sweetly, never smiled at her while stroking his thumb over her cheekbone, never tugged her close against him as he whispered in her ear.
“I’ll take care of you, Kit,” he said, his lips brushing her ear while his fingers wove deeper into her hair. “I won’t let the vultures steal pieces of you.”
Kit swayed into him, told herself it was all part of the show. “Thanks.”
“Make sure to cheer for me,” he ordered as he drew back, “maybe throw your panties onstage too—aimed directly and only at me.”
She shoved at his chest, though she was feeling all warm and hopeless inside. Warm because he was being the Noah she loved, the Noah who did look out for her, the one who’d never hurt her. Hopeless because this Noah was just as real as the Noah who’d so cruelly crushed her heart.
“You wish,” she said, digging up a smile. “If I ever throw my panties onstage, it won’t be for some pretty guitar player.”
“Oh, ouch.” Laughing as the crowd started to chant for Schoolboy Choir, he blew her a kiss and, slipping his guitar over his head and across his body, ran on with Fox. David and Abe ran up from the other side at the same time, and the crowd went crazy.
Genevieve slipped on more quietly after saying a quick hello to Kit and Molly.
Cupping the mike with both hands in that way he had of doing, Fox said, “You guys ready to party!” while Noah plugged in his own guitar, as was his habit.
A thunderous roar of sound was the crowd’s reply.
The band responded by launching into a hard rock anthem that had the attendees throwing up their hands and jumping up and down. Heading down the steps and around to the special section in front of the stage to join Molly and Thea, Butch, Casey, and the other security personnel making sure they were safe, Kit allowed herself to get caught up in the music, allowed herself to watch Noah.
For the first time since they’d met, she didn’t have to hide anything.
So she watched him move, listened to him play, and felt her heart thunder as loud as the crowd. “This is amazing!” she said to Molly and Thea.
“I’ve done the festival before, but never like this!” Thea took a few photos with her phone as she spoke, tweeted them. “I’m tagging you,” she said to Kit. “Retweet.”
“Always working.” Laughing, Molly pretended to confiscate Thea’s phone while Kit obeyed the retweet order, then took photos of her own to share.