“Something like that.”
“But you wouldn’t answer your door to the locksmith.”
“My father used to say I was debilitatingly shy.”
From her tone, Neo guessed the other man had considered that a liability, most likely to his brilliantly talented daughter’s career plans.
“Were you always shy?”
“My mother said I was an outgoing toddler. That’s how they learned I was a musical prodigy. I was always trying to entertain them and discovered the piano at the age of three. I played music I had heard from memory.”
“That’s what my teachers said.”
“They started you with a teacher at age three?” He could not help the appalled shock in his tone.
“Mom came down sick and I guess my parents saw the lessons as a way to divert my attention from her so I would not demand too much of her time.”
“That would imply you spent significant time each day playing piano.”
“How much time are we talking here?”
“I don’t remember exactly.” Though something in her expression belied that claim.
“Take a guess.”
“A couple of hours every morning and evening before bedtime.”
“Entirely possible. And that does not count the time I spent practicing on my own.”
“You must be mistaken.” Children often miscalculated the length of time spent doing something, or so he had heard.
“I used to think I might have been, too. However, I found the records of my lessons in a box of papers after my father’s death and there it was in black and white.”
“Proof my parents did not want me around.”
“That is a harsh assessment.”
“How did you end up in an orphanage?” she asked challengingly.
“My parents both wanted something different from life than being a parent.”
“Harsh assessment, or reality?”
“I have often wished I hadn’t found those records. I preferred the gentler fantasy that I mistook the number of hours I spent working on my music before I was old enough to go to school.” She bit her lip and looked away, old sadness sitting on her like a mantle. “Cleaning out the house of my parents’ personal possessions was supposed to be cathartic.”
“Who told you so?”
“And was it?”
She laughed, another less than amused sound. “Define cathartic. It forced me to face my loss, to accept that they were gone and never coming back. Which was good, I suppose.” She met his gaze again, remembered pain stark in her amber eyes. “But it hurt. Horribly.”
“I am sorry.”
“Enhancing your security will not make them any more gone,” he felt compelled to point out.
“But making the changes is bringing back those traumatic feelings, is it not?”
She nodded, but clearly forced herself to brighten. “You’re pretty perceptive for a business tycoon.”
“Figuring out what makes people tick is half the battle in business.”
“And I bet you are good at it.”
She laughed, this time sounding much happier. “Egotistical?”
He smiled in response. He liked making her laugh. “Honest in my self-assessment. Like right now, I know I’ll get damn short if I’m late for my teleconference.”
“Can you call in from your cell phone in the car?”
“Yes, but until I have my computer in front of me with the information I need, I won’t feel good about my input.”
“I bet you have most of it memorized.” But she got up from the table, gathering her dishes.
“I don’t like making mistakes.”
“I’d lay another bet that is an understatement.” She put the dishes in the sink. “Just to show I respect your schedule, I’ll leave these for later.”
He ignored the jibe. He respected her schedule, he just wanted to route it for the day. “I gave up betting when a careless wager led to me taking piano lessons.”
“Should I be offended?” she asked.
“No. I don’t regret being forced to accept my gift. It brought me a new friend.”
She shook her head, but her lips were curved in a small smile. “Some birthday pressie.”
“I think he did mean the lessons to be something special for my thirty-fifth.”
“He really thought you wanted piano lessons?”
“I wanted to learn to play when we were younger, but I hadn’t thought of that pipe dream in years.”