Our Kind of Love - Kait Nolan - E-Book

Our Kind of Love E-Book

Kait Nolan

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Beschreibung

One of Nashville’s fastest rising stars, Kyle Keenan has it all—fame, fans, and a chance at fortune. But the dream he’s busted his tail for means nothing without the woman who holds his heart. With her sassy smile and pull-no-punches attitude, Abbey is his greatest love—and his greatest regret. When he’s confronted in a live TV interview about alleged involvement with a country music starlet, Kyle blurts out he’s already engaged…to Abbey.

Abbey Whittaker has come a long way from the starry-eyed six-year-old who made a marriage pact with her best friend. With a thriving business, a loving family, and a tight-knit group of friends, she’s put away childish things. She long ago banished Kyle from her life, so the last thing she expects is him walking through her door or the blistering kiss that follows.

Kyle is desperate to convince Abbey that a fake engagement is the best way to get the media off her back—and his. And it just might give him a chance to fix what he destroyed. Even as these two frenemies remember all the reasons they wanted to be lovers, another blast from Kyle’s past returns, threatening to expose the secret he’s spent his entire career hiding.

When truths come to light, will love conquer all or will Kyle lose everything?

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Our Kind of Love

Kait Nolan

Contents

Invite

A Letter to Readers

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Epilogue

Sneak Peek Don’t You Wanna Stay

Sneak Peek Until We Meet Again

Other Books By Kait Nolan

About Kait

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A Letter to Readers

Dear Reader,

This book is set in the Deep South. As such, it contains a great deal of colorful, colloquial, and occasionally grammatically incorrect language. This is a deliberate choice on my part as an author to most accurately represent the region where I have lived my entire life. This book also contains swearing and pre-marital sex between the lead couple, as those things are part of the realistic lives of characters of this generation, and of many of my readers.

If any of these things are not your cup of tea, please consider that you may not be the right audience for this book. There are scores of other books out there that are written with you in mind. In fact, I’ve got a list of some of my favorite authors who write on the sweeter side on my website at https://kaitnolan.com/on-the-sweeter-side/

If you choose to stick with me, I hope you enjoy!

Happy reading!

Kait

Chapter 1

Kyle Keenan was an ungrateful bastard. He didn’t care about the arena of screaming fans begging for another encore, as he took his last bow of the night and faked a smile and affection for his tourmate, Mercy Lee Bradshaw. He didn’t care that this tour had shot his current album up the charts. He didn’t care that he was becoming a household name or that the True Country Network was calling him one of country music’s shooting stars and had given him the award to prove it.

In this moment, all he gave a damn about was that this was the last stop on the tour. One more TV interview, then he was free. Free to go home. Free to rest and to breathe. Free to be a normal guy for a while and visit his little brother Caleb and his new wife. Free to closet himself in the studio to produce the next album. Not that he’d written a note of it yet.

The realities of life on tour had scared away the inspiration that used to tear through him with the bold, brash wildness of an untamed stallion. He’d need to coax it back like some shy forest creature, with time and patience—commodities that had been in increasingly dwindling supply over the past couple years. The music would come when his world wasn’t full of so much other noise. And when it did, he’d find the love of it that had sent him out on the road at eighteen, determined to make something of himself. He just needed to get the hell off this stage and through the gauntlet to his tour bus.

As soon as the lights dimmed, he dropped Mercy Lee’s hand, already jogging offstage and into the labyrinth of halls the public never saw.

A familiar, hulking shape separated itself from the shadows and fell into step beside him. “You look like you’re ready to spit nails.”

Griffin Powell never minced words. It was a trait Kyle had always appreciated about his foster brother. The shorthand they’d developed years ago was the sort that only arose between people who’d chosen to be family. That was what all the kids who’d gone through Joan Reynolds’ home had become, regardless of how they’d ended up there. And thank God for it.

Vibrating with a restless, reckless energy, Kyle didn’t spare him a glance. “I need to get out of here. My give a damn busted about five cities ago.”

“On it.” Griff shifted into what Kyle thought of as Tank Mode, clearing the path with nothing more than the breadth of his muscular shoulders and a back-the-hell-off attitude. That skill alone made hiring him for these last few months of the tour well worth it.

Because they expected it and because he understood the need to protect his image, Kyle dug deep to find a shred of the Nice Guy he tried so hard to be for the crew members and event staff who called out “Good show!” and “Congrats, man!” as he strode past. He mustered a semblance of a smile, accepting the back slaps and the fist bumps, but he let nothing deter him from his goal. He didn’t even detour to his dressing room. The crew would finish packing his stuff, and he had a change of clothes on the bus.

His manager, Davis Lipscomb, appeared at his side. “You need to talk to the press.”

“Nope. I talked to them before I performed. I already signed autographs and did my fan service. It’s the last night, and I’m done with this dog and pony show.” He’d spent the past six-plus months doing everything asked of him in the name of keeping his label happy. And that was fine. His memories of the lean years, when he’d played any gig that materialized and had lived out of his ancient Tahoe, grabbing showers at truck stops because he couldn’t scrape together enough for a hotel, were still fresh enough in his mind that he was beyond grateful to have a label to please. But enough was enough.

Davis’s mouth pressed into a thin line that telegraphed his displeasure. Kyle didn’t give a shit about that, either. “You’ve still got the interview with The Breakfast Club tomorrow morning.”

“I am aware. Why the hell do you think I’m so eager to get to the bus? I’d like at least a few hours of shuteye before I get back to Nashville.” That was only part of the reason. He was so over every-damn-body wanting something from him, and he’d reached a level of fame where, once in a while, he could put himself first without fear he’d get dropped. With the numbers being reported for this latest album, the label damned well better recognize he deserved a vacation. God knew he needed one.

Dialing up his trademark Nice Guy smile one more time for the night, Kyle shoved out the back door, preceded by Griff, and flanked by a couple of guys from venue security. The crowd was already three- and four-deep along the roped-off path leading to the buses. How the hell did they get around here so fast? As always, his first instinct was to flinch at the attention and find somewhere to hide. But these were fans, not press, and he’d come a long way from that teenaged boy.

Determined, Kyle made his way down the line, nodding and waving, aware of the cameras and video he never escaped. His gaze passed right over the woman at first. But it came back for a fraction of a second, tugged by something in her eyes. The same bold blue as his own, though age and experience had hardened them.

The punch of shock made his steps falter.

It was enough.

She called his name. Not the one he’d adopted when he’d left his past behind, but the one he’d been given at birth. The sound of it should’ve gotten lost. Everyone around him was chanting his chosen name and cheering. But he heard the rasp of her voice—familiar, despite the distance of years. The sound of it pulled him back to that teenage boy again. To the stand he’d made that changed everything.

How had he not known she was out of prison?

Griff’s hand nudged him forward. “Keep moving.”

The touch grounded Kyle. He didn’t acknowledge her, just fell back into motion with his brother. Was she alone? He didn’t dare look, didn’t dare react and risk giving the public or whatever paparazzi lurked among them something to latch onto. They were always circling, like carrion birds, in search of the next salacious meal of gossip. He’d worked way too damned hard and long at keeping this part of his past under wraps to slip up now.

At the door of his tour bus, he paused, sensing Davis at his shoulder. “Did you see her?”

“Yeah.”

“Take care of it.”

Without waiting for confirmation from his manager, he stepped onto the bus behind Griff, not quite breathing until the driver shut the door.

Pete beamed at him. “Last night, Mr. Keenan.”

“Thank God.”

The driver laughed. “Ready to get home?”

“You know it.”

“We’ll probably be another forty-five minutes to an hour before getting on the road.”

Kyle offered a more genuine smile to the older man, who’d seen that he and his band got from place to place for the last several months. “Not a problem. I’m gonna head on back, try to catch some Z’s.”

Pete saluted.

The drawn blinds gave an illusion of privacy from the hordes. Resisting the urge to lift them and press his face to the glass to scan the crowd for another glimpse of that face, Kyle passed his brother and strode to the back, grateful he’d graduated to a bus where he got an actual full-size bed instead of the narrow bunks that lined the hall, three-high on each side, where his backup band—and now Griff—slept when they were on the road. The sliding door gave him a little more of that illusory privacy, enough that he let the mask drop, let his hands shake. Without a word, Griff opened a cabinet in the wall and pulled out the bottle of rye whiskey, pouring a generous glass and handing it over.

Ghosts certainly called for it.

Kyle tossed back a healthy swallow, waiting as the alcohol burned through the initial shock, leaving him a little steadier. “What the actual hell is she doing here?”

Griff’s military training showed as he ranged himself in front of the door. “Don’t know. Could make a few educated guesses. You aren’t gonna like any of them.”

Kyle pinched the bridge of his nose and sank into the chair. “Hasn’t she fucked up my life enough? Haven’t they both?”

“Reckon they feel the same way about you.” At his sharp look, Griff lifted his hands for peace. “I’m just sayin’. It’s not surprising she sought you out.”

Maybe this was just another sign that he couldn’t escape from his past. Their mistakes weren’t his, but that hadn’t stopped him from trying to atone for them. He’d made plenty of his own along the way. Reaching into his pocket, he fished out the talisman he kept to remind him of that fact.

The plastic ring was faded with age, the faux diamond scratched and the gold paint of the band flaked off in places from years riding in his pocket with loose change and a Swiss Army knife he’d carried even longer. Griff said nothing as Kyle ran his finger over the band, grounded by the slightly rough edges of plastic where it hadn’t been properly trimmed from the mold. A long, long time ago, he’d given this ring and his heart to his best friend in the world, the woman he’d known he wanted to marry, even at the tender age of six. Twenty-five years of life experience hadn’t changed his mind, but he’d unforgivably screwed that up. Abbey had sent the ring back, and he’d kept it ever since as a reminder that there were more important things than fame. He might not be able to make up for his mistakes with her, but he spent his time not on the road or in the studio working on balancing the karmic scales for the rest of his past.

The door slid open, and Kyle closed his fist around the ring.

Griff stepped aside so Davis could enter.

“The… situation… has been handled.”

Kyle didn’t want the details about how. “Just tell me one thing. Is he out?”

No need to specify who. Davis was the one who’d helped bury the connection all these years. “He is not.”

“Alright then.” He drained the last of his glass. “I’m going to bed.”

“Fine. But before we get to Nashville for tomorrow’s interview, I wanted to talk to you.”

Griff’s gaze flicked toward Davis and back in silent question. Grateful beyond measure that someone he trusted had his back, Kyle nodded. He could handle his manager. With a faint jerk of his head in acknowledgment, Griff slipped out the door, leaving them alone.

“Alright. Talk fast. I’m tired.”

“You should reconsider a relationship with Mercy Lee. She’s country music’s greatest darling right now. Being linked to her beyond the tour would really raise your profile, and tomorrow’s a great opportunity to do that.”

Kyle scowled and cut him off. “The answer is no. I’m not interested in fake or real dating that woman for any amount of exposure. We talked about this after that publicity stunt last fall.” The lip-lock she’d sprung on him had been in the tabloids for months.

“Have I ever steered you wrong?”

The ring in his hand felt hot. But that was old ground and not something Kyle wanted to get into tonight. He uncoiled from his chair and advanced on the manager who’d been pushing and shoving him in directions he hadn’t wanted for a while now. It stopped tonight. “What you’re suggesting isn’t a career move. It’s my life. So, no. Final answer, and I won’t discuss this again.”

Something flashed in Davis’ eyes—more disapproval, probably—but he didn’t challenge Kyle again. “Get some sleep and try to remember the hosts are expecting country music’s Captain America tomorrow.”

That silly moniker they’d saddled him with because of his all-American good looks and Nice Guy charm. If only they knew where he came from.

“I’m aware of my role here.” He’d been playing it for a lot of years now.

Davis flashed the genial shark’s grin that he took into contract negotiations. “See you in the morning.”

As soon as he stepped into the hall, Kyle shut and locked the sliding door and wondered when he’d stopped trusting the man whose job was to look out for his best interests.

He opened his fist and stared at the ring again for a long moment. Then, instead of falling into bed as he’d intended, he reached for his guitar.

At the crash of shattering glass, Abbey bolted through the backdoor, into the kitchen, to find her grandfather scowling and her mother clenching a dishtowel in white-knuckled fingers.

“Honestly, Roy.”

“I don’t want turnip greens!”

Abbey eyed the food among the shards of plate on the floor. It appeared to be a spinach salad. That kind of day, then. She slid past the mess to a grab the dustpan and whisk broom from under the sink. “Take a break. I’ve got it.”

Faye turned away and braced her hands on the counter, her silvering blonde hair falling forward to hide her face and the inevitable tears. They’d all shed plenty since their journey with his dementia began.

Abbey worked up a cheerful smile and crouched to sweep up the mess. “Hey, Granddaddy.”

“Hey, Butter Bean! How was school today? Did you pass that algebra test?”

Though she was more than a decade past high-school graduation, Abbey rolled with the conversation. “Aced it, as always.” When he was caught in the past, it was just easier to indulge him than to try to bring him back to now.

He slapped his knee. “That’s my girl!”

“How was your day?”

“Up to my elbows in the engine of the truck. Damned thing’s making that knocking noise again.”

She hoped he hadn’t been trying to “fix” the engine on his own. They already had to hide the keys to keep him from trying to drive anything. With another glance at her mother, she dumped the mess into the trash and shifted into redirect mode.

“Want to split an apple and peanut butter before dinner?” She lowered her voice to a conspiratorial whisper. “We won’t tell Mom.” If he was in a recalcitrant eating mood, she could always coax him into eating an apple, so at least he had something nutritious.

Granddaddy tapped the side of his nose and grinned to acknowledge the shared secret. The man loved the idea of getting away with stuff.

Grabbing one of the glossy red Rome Beauties from a bowl on the counter and the jar of peanut butter from the pantry, she dropped into a chair beside her favorite person in the world and told him about her fictional day, filling it with things she remembered from high school. Not too hard since she’d gone to school with most of the folks she now worked with at the Misfit Spa, just outside Eden’s Ridge. After a few minutes, her mom returned to dinner prep. Engaged with the everyday stories, Granddaddy ate the apple slices, not noticing that she gave him all of them. By the time she neared the end of the apple, her dad came in.

“Whatever’s for dinner smells amazing, hon.” Mark kissed the lines of strain on her mother’s brow.

“Sure does,” Granddaddy agreed. “Kyle better hurry on up, or he’ll be late.”

Abbey’s hands fisted in her lap, as they always did when Granddaddy brought up Kyle like he was still a daily part of their lives, still part of the family. “He’s not here for dinner tonight.”

“Oh, too bad. I was hoping to get him to play for us after dinner.”

The memory of all the nights he’d done exactly that had Abbey’s throat going tight. It had been ten years. Would the mere mention of him ever stop being a knife through the heart?

This time, it was her father who stepped in to do the rescuing. “Actually, Dad, I was hoping to talk to you about some plans for the north orchard.”

As Faye served dinner, talk turned to the business of apples—the thing most of her family had devoted their lives to for four generations. The conversation didn’t take much participation on her part. Abbey found her mind wandering to Kyle. It didn’t matter that she’d cut him out of her life a decade ago. Didn’t matter that he hadn’t been home in longer than that. He was so much a part of her history here that his echo was everywhere.

No matter how much she wanted to forget him, there was no living back in Eden’s Ridge without having reminders, even without Granddaddy’s memory lapses. She worked with his foster sisters, hung out right next door to where he’d spent his high school years, and saw the house where he’d grown up, a stone’s throw from her own, every time she stepped outside.

At least she’d been living in Atlanta when everything had blown all to hell. She’d been able to hide her devastation. As far as anyone else knew, they’d had some kind of falling out and drifted apart. She’d never breathed a word of the truth about what had happened. Better she be the only one he hurt. But God, she wished she could make him as unimportant to her as she was to him. Wished, too, that she could stop him from starring in her fantasies. But Dream Abbey was as much of a fool as ever.

Talk shifted from the orchard to town gossip, providing a decent distraction from her thoughts.

"I heard they broke ground on the new small business incubator this week,” Mark said.

Relieved to have something to contribute to the conversation, Abbey jumped in. “Oh, yeah, Maggie said things are moving right along with that. They’re hoping to open the doors later this fall.”

“I don’t know how she’s going to juggle that and the Artisan Guild and a baby,” Faye remarked.

“I’m pretty sure she’s looking for someone else to take over management of the Guild.”

They continued to discuss potential candidates for that. By the end of the meal, Granddaddy was back in the now, and he’d eaten the spinach salad without complaint.

“Well, I reckon I’ll turn in. Got an early day tomorrow. Faye, that was delicious. Thank you.” Granddaddy shoved back from the table, and they all braced to see how his balance would be. He took a staggering step or two before leveling out.

“I’ll walk up with you. I need to grab some stuff for the laundry.” Mark trailed him out of the room, ready and waiting to make sure Granddaddy navigated the stairs okay.

Faye began to rise, but Abbey pressed her back into her chair. “I’ve got the dishes, Mom. You take a few.”

Her mother scrubbed both hands over her face, no longer trying to hide the exhaustion. “He was agitated all day until you got home.”

“You know it’s because I look like Grandma Ruth. And because I’m his favorite.”

“You are that.”

Abbey scraped, rinsed, and loaded plates into the dishwasher and started in on the pots and pans. She finished up with the last one as her dad came back into the room.

“He’s settled.” Mark sank into a chair himself and took his wife’s hand.

Draping the dishtowel over the ledge of the sink, Abbey inhaled a bracing breath and turned to face her parents. “I have something I want to talk to you both about.”

Faye paled even more. “What?”

Abbey hated that her mother’s first thought was that it was something bad. “The last couple of years have been really draining. You both need a break. A real one. More than the occasional treatment at the spa.” Crossing the room, she pulled the packet out of her purse. “So, you’re going to take one.”

Her dad frowned. “What are you talking about, baby?”

Extracting the contents of the manilla folder, she slid the slick brochure across the kitchen table. “I’ve arranged for you to take a ten-day cruise to the Caribbean.”

“Don’t be crazy. We can’t up and go off on vacation. Your grandfather—”

“Does well with me. It’s the off-season for the orchard, and Lewis and Ryder have things well-in-hand if anything comes up. It’s your thirty-fifth anniversary. I’ve already bought the tickets and everything. You leave out of Mobile tomorrow afternoon.”

Tears glittered in Faye’s eyes. “You shouldn’t have done this, honey. We can’t go.”

“Yes, you can. I’ve already made arrangements with all my friends to help, and I talked to Farrah Murchison about putting him in programming at the senior center to try it out. We’ve got everything here covered. You already hadn’t been on a vacation in more years than I can count before his dementia hit. Let me do this for you.”

Mark was looking a little watery himself. “I… don’t know what to say.”

“Say you’ll go and have a good time and know I’ve got everything covered back here. Granddaddy and I will be fine.” She might need a vacation herself when it was through, but it would be worth it to give her parents this gift.

Her mother opened the brochure. “There’s all-you-can-eat buffets and onboard music. And snorkeling! I always wanted to try snorkeling.”

Mark wrapped an arm around her shoulders and squeezed, and Abbey knew she had them. “Okay then, we’ll go snorkeling.” He reached out his free hand to take Abbey’s. “Thank you for this. It already means so much that you moved home to help with Dad. This is above and beyond.”

“It’s what you deserve.” Shoving back from the table, she made a shooing motion. “Now, hurry on up. Y’all need to pack.”

Chapter 2

Scraps of melody danced around the edges of Kyle’s brain, as he waited in the green room to go on The Breakfast Club, Nashville’s hottest, syndicated morning show. He itched to discharge this last duty so he could go back to his loft and write. This was the first glimmer of something new he’d had in longer than he cared to admit. If he had to reschedule his dinner plans with Caleb and Emerson to chase it, they’d understand.

He’d stayed up way too late, losing out on hours of precious sleep, coaxing out the lyrics. Like all his biggest hits, the song was a heartbreaker, which meant it was the truest thing he’d written in a long time. Maybe it was time to stop hiding the pain and bleed it out into music. It said a lot that he found that more appealing than contemplating what it meant that his mother had shown up last night.

He rolled the ring across his knuckles like a coin. Would Abbey listen if he poured the whole thing out in a song? Give him the chance to explain, at last? Or had she cut his music as thoroughly out of her life as she had him?

A woman in a headset walked in. “You’re up, Mr. Keenan.”

He rose, pocketing the ring, and followed her to the sound stage in time to catch the tail end of the host’s introduction. “—the most recent recipient of TCN’s Shooting Star Award, and arguably one of the nicest guys in country music, please welcome Kyle Keenan!”

Smile in place, hand lifted to the cameras, he strode on stage to join the host, Jillian Jessop. He gave the expected air kiss on her cheek and dropped into the waiting chair, forcing himself to sit back and relax rather than perching on the edge of the seat.

“Thanks for joining us this morning.”

“Thanks for having me.” Kyle tried not to squint in the glare of the studio lights. It was too damned early for lights this bright. They beat down on him and sweat beaded between his shoulders. Or maybe that was the anxiety. He’d performed in front of hundreds of thousands of people without blinking, but that was with a guitar in his hands. He felt naked and exposed without one.

“Now, you just finished up the Light My Fire tour with Mercy Lee Bradshaw.”

“Yes, ma’am. Just last night at the FedEx Forum in Memphis. After all these months on the road, it’s good to be back in Tennessee.”

“What’s the plan for your down time?”

“Hanging out with my family and working on songs for the next album.”

“Ooo, any hints about the direction that’s taking?”

Instead of rubbing his sweaty palms on his jeans, he winked. “It’s a surprise.” Even to me.

Jillian pursed her lips. “Okay, okay. Let’s talk about your most recent album, Bustin’ at the Seams. It’s currently number nine on the Billboard charts. What’s it like breaking into that top ten?”

“I mean, it’s amazing. That’s been one of the things on my bucket list. It’s incredibly humbling to have that many people enjoying my music, and I absolutely couldn’t do it without them. Fans are everything.”

“On that album is your first number one hit, “Hollow”. Can we talk you into playing for us?”

The studio audience cheered. Relieved to have something to do besides just talk, Kyle nodded and accepted the guitar a stagehand brought out. He made a few adjustments to the tuning by ear. It had been ages since he’d done a solo acoustic version of this. Not since he’d cut the track in the studio. As he closed his eyes and began to play, the audience faded and he lost himself in the song, the story. Something about stripping away all the frills, all the polish, made the song more raw and took him back to when he’d written it. It was a song about grief and regret, everything he’d drowned in for the weeks and months after he’d realized Abbey was through with him. There was something karmic about this being his first number one, ensuring he relived all of it over and over, never letting the wound scab over.

The applause brought him back. Jillian clutched a few notecards to her chest, looking half ready to swoon. “I absolutely see why that’s become the latest anthem for the broken-hearted. So easy for people to relate to.”

Kyle kept the guitar in his lap, needing something in his hands to stop himself from reaching for the ring. “I think that’s something the best songs have in common. They’re the ones that connect to the human experience. Everybody’s lost somebody.”

Jillian’s gaze turned shrewd. “Now, you yourself have been notoriously single since you entered the public eye. But you and Mercy Lee looked pretty cozy on the tour. Are your days of singlehood and sad songs coming to an end?”

His fingers clenched on the guitar as he struggled to hold on to his temper. He’d said in advance that this topic was off limits. A quick glance to the side showed Davis flashing an I-know-best smile. This shit needed to stop.

“Rumors of our involvement have been greatly exaggerated. Mercy Lee and I are just friends.” They weren’t even that, but it wasn’t good for his image to air his true opinion of the woman on live national television.

“Come now, there’s no reason to play your cards so close to your vest,” Jillian cajoled.

“The fact is, I can’t be involved with Mercy Lee because I’m already promised to someone else.” And it didn’t much matter to his heart that she’d sent back the ring. He didn’t want anyone else.

The host gaped. “You heard it here first, ladies and gentlemen. Kyle Keenan is engaged!”

“Wait—” That wasn’t what he’d meant, wasn’t what he’d said. Was it?

But Jillian was like a shark scenting blood. “Tell us everything. Who is she? How long have y’all been together? How did you meet?”

Kyle scrambled to salvage the situation. Maybe he could make it clear he was off the market without this blowing up in his face. “She’s the only one who’s ever mattered. We’ve known each other forever, but she values her privacy, so we’ve kept everything on the down low. That won’t be changing.”

“That’s all you’re going to give us? Not even the story of your romance?”

Again with the Nice Guy smile. “That’s it.” Let the media chase their tails trying to figure out who he was talking about. There wasn’t enough here for them to connect it to an actual person. It would be okay.

“Fine. I suppose we’ll have to accept that. Let’s wrap up with a lightning round of questions.”

Dodged that bullet. Kyle relaxed. “Alright, let’s do it.”

“Favorite food?”

“Apple pie.”

“Song you sing in the shower?”

“‘The Thunder Rolls.’”

“Dogs or cats?”

“Dogs.”

“Last book you read?”

“Blake Iverson’s latest.”

“Your girl’s name.”

“Abbey.”

“Ah ha!”

Oh shit, what have I done? “That was dirty.”

Jillian just shrugged, unrepentant. “Inquiring minds wanted to know. Thanks for joining us today.” She turned her gaze back to the camera. “After the break, we’ll be back with—”

But Kyle heard nothing else. He was too busy holding in the oh shit, oh shit, oh shit echoing through his skull like a refrain. He’d said her name. Not her last name. But if anybody did any real digging, tracing him back to Eden’s Ridge, they’d find her. She’d be mobbed with media, and they wouldn’t care what the truth was… Whether they were together or not, she’d be the center of a shitstorm.

This was all Davis’s fault. If he hadn’t pressed the Mercy Lee thing, Kyle’s mouth wouldn’t have run away without his brain. As soon as he got the all clear, he strode off the stage, yanking off his mic pack and shoving it at a nearby tech. His manager looked apoplectic.

Before he could even say a word, Kyle was in his face. “You’re fired.”

For a moment, legitimate shock blanked out the anger. “You don’t mean that.”

“Oh, I sure as hell do. We’re done.” There was satisfaction in saying it. In meaning it.

“About damned time,” Griff muttered.

Color swept the other man’s cheeks. “You’ll regret this. You’d be nothing without me.”

Perhaps that had been true once, but not anymore.

“I’ll take my chances. Don’t forget about the NDA you signed.” Without a backward glance, he left Davis in the wings and headed for the studio exit, his brother right behind.

“Gonna be fallout from that,” Griff observed.

“It’ll be nothing compared to the hell that’ll be unleashed if I don’t get to Abbey before she hears about this interview.” In truth, she was probably gonna kill him either way.

“So, we’re going home?”

The place he hadn’t been able to make himself set foot in since he blew his own world to pieces. Even the idea of it had nausea setting up in his gut. But alongside the queasiness was a kernel of desperate hope because this disaster meant that, like it or not, he’d finally see Abbey again.

Kyle shoved out the door. “We’re going home.”

Mom:On the way! Thanks for everything!

“Okay, my parents are officially on the road,” Abbey announced. “Everybody, pray.” Despite all the friends who’d agreed to help, she had no real backup if something went wrong, so she needed the next ten days to go smoothly.

Taryn Washington leaned one generous hip against the spa’s front desk. “Well, I think it’s just the nicest thing you’re doing for your folks.”

“Seriously,” Nadia Flores agreed. “I wish somebody would send me on a cruise.”

Abbey shrugged. “They’ve been through a lot. If this senior care program works, it will make a big difference to everybody’s quality of life. His dementia isn’t too bad yet, but he can’t stay alone for long stretches anymore. We’re trying to keep things as normal as possible for him, and that’s just taken a lot out of us. We all need a break.”