Elbowing him, she pointed at a ride to their left. “Who would be insane enough to go on that? Listen to the screams.”
He looked at her, smiled. Narrowing her eyes, she tried to back away. He held her in a pretend stranglehold as he led her to the line. Later, after they’d survived the ride, he bought her a small blue teddy bear with a missing ear, as if it had been torn off in a scuffle. It was sitting forlornly at the back of a shelf like someone had shoved it back there until they had time to clear him away.
Noah knew he should buy Kit an undamaged, pristine bear, but he bought the bear with the missing ear. “I couldn’t leave the little guy.”
Kit’s face threatened to crumple. “Noah.”
Wrapping her in his arms to hide her from the world, he couldn’t stop his stupid grin. “Shit, did I just do cute?”
A jerky nod. “He’s adorable. I love him.” Then, to his surprise, she hid the bear back in the gift bag rather than holding it so the photographers would see it as they walked out.
It meant too much, he realized in staggered shock. Meant enough to protect. A bear with a missing ear and slightly dirty fur, imperfect and ragged… just like the man who’d bought him.
Kit got the phone call as they were driving home from the theme park. Redemption was hers. “Harper’s negotiating the final deal, but she says the terms look okay at first glance,” she said after hanging up, still not sure she hadn’t hallucinated the entire conversation. “I’m going to be one of the leads in an Esra Dali movie.”
“The role was always yours.”
She just wanted to kiss him. He was always so firmly on her side.
Trying to think of a way to distract herself, she said, “Did you get those mugs for the guys?” He’d laughed and said he was buying glittery pink princess mugs for Fox, Abe, and David as gifts. Kit had gone gift hunting herself, buying things for Becca, Molly, and Thea, as well as her cousin’s young children. She’d also added something happy and sweet for Sarah, figuring the other woman needed a smile.
“Yeah,” he said, then groaned. “Shit, I forgot to grab a gift for Emily. The little brat will pout for days if she finds out I got the mugs for the guys and didn’t get her anything.”
Aware he loved the “little brat,” Kit smiled. “I have you covered. I got her a teacup for her collection.”
“You really like her, huh?”
“Of course I do. She’s a sweetheart.” Kit petted the adorable bear sitting in her lap. Trust Noah to get her something so perfect, something he’d chosen specifically for her. “I got you something too.”
“What?” A curious look. “Spill, Devigny.”
Grinning, she reached into the backseat and found the small package. “Shall I open it for you, or do you want to wait till we’re home?”
“I never knew you were such a tease.”
She laughed and opened the package to reveal a glittery pink princess mug stamped with the letter N. “I couldn’t have you feeling left out.”
“Gimme that.” He swiped for it.
“Nuh-uh.” She wrapped it safely back up. “I’m not having you throw it out the window. I want a picture of all four of you drinking from these mugs.”
He grumbled, but she caught that heartbreaking, lopsided smile that made it clear he loved that she’d bought him a gift, and her heart, it went all liquid inside her chest. First what he’d said about children, and now this…
Noah was devastating her defenses one by one.
They celebrated her casting with champagne and a homemade dinner where Kit talked off Noah’s ear about the script, and he just grinned and listened and told her again that the part had always been meant to be hers.
His belief in her was one of the things that had first made her fall so hard for him. She’d grown up being told by the world that she was inferior to her parents—there had been the “fugly” comments of the tabloids while the gossip magazines and bloggers had been more sly, calling her “awkward” and pointing out her ordinary teenage acne as a “brave fight” she was undertaking.
Other people hadn’t been as subtle. As a child, then a teen, she’d overheard more than one guest at her parents’ home say uncomplimentary things.
“You’d never believe the ungainly child was Adreina and Parker’s daughter.”
“I don’t know, maybe she’ll grow into those limbs. If she doesn’t… poor child.”
“Fugly is right.”