Page 22 of The Shy Bride

“I’ve never had a billionaire tycoon friend. We are even.” Well, maybe not entirely.

Female friends, or not, the man knew a lot more about women than she knew about men and what made them tick, billionaire tycoons or otherwise.


“So, friends can’t kiss?” she asked again, going back to the part of the conversation that most interested her.

“No.”

“Why not?”

“Women I have sex with rarely last more than a night, a few at the most, in my life. I would like our friendship to be more long-standing.” He actually managed to sound almost vulnerable.

“We were kissing, not having sex. Weren’t we?” Maybe she hadn’t recognized foreplay when she felt it? She certainly wouldn’t have said no if he’d asked for more and she had wanted them naked, hadn’t she?

Oh, goodness, gracious, she had wanted them naked.

“You are so innocent.”

“And you aren’t. That sounds like a good combination to me.”

“Only in your ingenious mind.”

“Now you’re just being condescending.”

“I am being realistic.”

“I think I might like you spontaneous better.”

“Good.” The look in his eyes said anything but.

“Good?”

“What could be more spontaneous than spending the day together?”

“We’re back to that, are we?”

His smile said they were indeed. “You need to take a shower. I will prepare your breakfast while you dress.”

“You can cook?”

“I did not start out life a rich man.”

“Granted.” But she hadn’t considered what that might mean practicality-wise about how he lived earlier in his life.

“Do you prefer a hot or cold breakfast?” he asked, managing not to sound like a waiter taking an order so much as a superconfident Greek man trying to sound like one.

“A toasted bagel with peanut butter would be fine.” She’d grab an apple on the way out the door and round out the meal nicely.

Which meant she was considering leaving with him. More than considering it, resigned to it. Maybe not even resigned, but actually looking forward to it. After a single kiss. She was in so much trouble.

Maybe his no-kissing rule for them was a good idea, after all.

“If they cut so much as a leaf off of my bushes, I will never forgive you,” she said as she walked out of the room and hoped he realized she was very serious about that one.

Neo felt like someone had kicked him in the chest.

Kissing Cassandra had been better than anything he had felt in a long time. Maybe ever. He had not wanted to stop, had felt helpless to do so. That shocking realization, more than anything—more than the knowledge that Geary’s team would be arriving soon, more than Neo’s own pressing schedule—had given him the impetus he needed to break the kiss.

Neo was never helpless. Had not once in his entire life considered that word applicable to himself. And he was not about to begin now. Almost as alarming, he could not remember the last time he had lost control sexually or any other way, much less so quickly.

When he’d touched her lips, he’d been close to climaxing and that had never happened, not even in his youth. From a kiss. He hadn’t even touched Cassandra’s small but tempting breasts, or gotten to naked skin at all. But he’d wanted to. More than he’d wanted to be on time for his morning meeting. Damn it.

She hadn’t touched him, either, except to respond to his kiss with her lips. That response had been untutored—innocently sensual, but incredibly, sweetly passionate. If his instincts were right, and they usually were, she was a virgin.

Which was one very good reason to steer clear of sexual intimacy with her. It had nothing to do with the fact she engendered such a surprising reaction in him. Neo was not afraid of anything, but he only slept with women who understood the expectations going in, experienced women who would not mistake physical desire for more ephemeral emotions.

His sex partners usually shared his jaded view of sex, but not much more. Women he would never consider spending an entire day with, not even in bed. Damn, he sounded like a chauvinist, even in his own mind.

But he could not help that he had never developed friendships with the fairer sex. He didn’t usually make friends at all. As Zephyr had pointed out with such relish.

Neo couldn’t say what drew him to Cassandra. All he knew was that the last few weeks, he had looked forward to his piano lessons and seeing her more than he ever would have expected. There was no denying he liked her as a person. With all her quirks, she was charming.

He liked how she seemed to identify with him on a level only Zephyr ever had before. She knew what it was to have a childhood in name only. She understood loss and fear and hunger, even if it had been for love rather than food.

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