Page 16 of The Shy Bride

How Cass had hated sharing her music with crowds of strangers, too many of whom wanted to meet the young pianist, after what had always been for her a soul-exhausting concert.

Something moved in Neo’s green eyes. “You will tell me about that later, but realize I am not your father.”


“No.” The feelings she experienced in Neo’s presence were far from familial. And he was not cajoling her to perform in a packed auditorium. She took a deep breath and let it out. “Okay. We can show him the house.”

“Let’s do this,” Neo said to Cole.

The security consultant simply nodded, without giving Cass any of the strange looks she was used to receiving when her limitations got in the way of normal social interaction.

Gratitude washed over her and she gave him a genuine, if small, smile.

Then, despite the fact the man had gone past the music room and the hall only once before and that was yesterday, Neo led them on a flawless tour of her house. It was uncanny. He never once opened a closet door expecting a room, or missed a door that led to the outside. Although her house was small, there were four doors of that nature—the front door, the kitchen door, and French doors in both the master bedroom and dining room. Those in her room led out to a raised deck and the ones in the dining room opened onto the patio below that deck.

“Ideally, we would replace these doors with ones made of reinforced metal and shatterproof glass,” Cole said, eyeing the bedroom’s French doors with disfavor.

Cass gripped Neo’s suit jacket without thought. “Neo,” she pleaded. “Is that really necessary?”

“You will spend the day with me when the renovations are being done.”

That was not what she had asked, nor should it have made her feel any better. After all, Neo was really just a student, not a friend or a protector, but he made her feel safer than she had in years. Maybe ever.

And wasn’t that thought just a tad overwhelming. Neo would walk out of her life without a backward glance in less than a year’s time. His lessons would be over and he would move on, but Cass did not think he would leave her unchanged.

And maybe that was okay.

It had been too long since she let anyone inside, but even if it led to pain and loss down the road, it might well be worth it.

“I’m sure your personal assistant will love that. She doesn’t like me,” she said to cover her nearly overwhelming relief at his offer.

Cass could not imagine spending the day trailing after the high-energy billionaire. But for the first time in years, just because she couldn’t imagine it, did not mean she refused to try it.

“Miss Park? She is a very efficient personal assistant. I do not pay her to like or dislike people.”

“Just because you don’t pay for it, doesn’t mean you don’t get it.” Did the man really think people worked that way?

“I have acted somewhat out of character in my dealings with you. No doubt that surprises her.”

“Really?” Cass let go of his jacket and smoothed the expensive fabric. “I guess that doesn’t surprise me. Even I realized you offering to come this morning was not the norm.”

“No, but here I am.”

“Why is that?” she asked. Was it possible he felt the same almost primal connection she did? And what would she do if he did?

No way would a dynamic man like Neo Stamos tolerate the cramp in his style a relationship with her would cause.

“I believe I am making a new friend for the first time in more years than I care to count.”

“Oh.” Of course he hadn’t felt the same amazing attraction. Neo was surrounded by gorgeous, fully socially functional women. Cass wouldn’t even register a blip on his female companionship radar, but friendship wasn’t something to dismiss lightly. Not for her anyway. She didn’t have so many she could or would want to dismiss his offer. “I think I’m honored.”

“As am I, by your trust.”

“I do trust you.”

“I noticed.”

Cole cleared his throat. “I’ve seen enough to write my preliminary report.”

Neo’s face twitched just enough to let her know that like her, he’d forgotten the other man was there.

“Good. I’ll expect it on my desk by afternoon.”

“For the rates you’re paying, I can make that happen.” Cole smiled as if he didn’t mind rich clients throwing money at a problem they expected him to fix.

It was a good attitude to take, she was sure. If you wanted to keep working for said rich clients.

“I’d like to see the report as well,” she said.

Cole’s smile warmed up a couple of degrees as he turned it on her. “No problem.”

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