She hadn’t exactly been gracious, but she appreciated Neo’s minor prevarication on her behalf.
“Don’t worry, I didn’t have a baby grand moved into Conference Room B for an impromptu concert,” Zephyr mocked, clearly amused by Neo’s protective stance.
“If you had, I might have gotten more done,” Cassandra joked. “There are limits to what I can do working off my recordings.”
“You can afford to take some time off work,” Neo said with a perfectly straight face.
Zephyr laughed in clear amazement, his expression one of disbelief. “Coming from you, that’s standup comedian material.”
“I cancelled several events on my calendar today.”
“I know.” Zephyr gave Cass a strange look. “It’s one of the reasons I wanted to meet this wonderfully talented lady. I knew she was a master pianist, I didn’t know she was a miracle worker.”
“More like a whiner,” Cass said self-deprecatingly. “Neo would never have gotten me out of my house and those workmen in if he hadn’t dragged me himself.”
She didn’t mention his form of persuasion had included a kiss that had about melted her brain.
“You are not a whiner.” Neo had come to stand by Zephyr and his expression was more than a little stern. “You have agoraphobic issues that have to be addressed with the seriousness and caution they deserve.”
“That sounds like something you’d read in a textbook on the subject,” she said. And then realization dawned. “You’ve researched my condition.”
“I had one of my top people do it for me.”
“Wow. You take being my student way more seriously than anyone else has in the past.”
Neo shrugged, but Zephyr appeared anything but nonchalant at the admission. He was once again staring at his business partner with blatant incredulity.
Then his expression morphed and he turned a look of almost pity on Cass. “Watch out. When he gets the bit between his teeth, Neo has a tendency to take over.”
“You think I haven’t noticed this trait?” she asked with no little amusement.
Neo crossed his arms and frowned at Zephyr. “I think you’ve got better things to do than stand around gossiping, partner.”
“Are you going to try and deny you’ve already got a recovery plan in the works for Miss Baker and her agoraphobia?” he asked instead of taking the hint.
“My research has not reached that point yet.”
Cass’s heart pounded in her chest. That “yet” was ominous. “Just because you talked me into upgrading the security on my home, do not for one minute think you are going to convince me to go through one of those antiphobia seminars. It’s not going to happen.”
She’d been there, done that and had the scars to prove it.
“You’ve tried such a thing?” Neo asked perceptively.
She nodded shortly.
“And it did not go well?” he added.
“I still refuse to answer the door to strangers, don’t I?”
“That’s just intelligent caution,” Zephyr said approvingly.
She smiled gratefully at him. Very few people had ever tried to make her feel more normal. The people in her life were mostly vested in getting her back on the stage and that meant making sure she understood just how different she was. Different being one of the kindest terms they used. Broken, foolish, weak, and irresponsible were some others.
“I’ll want details from the attempts you have made to overcome this challenge in the past.”
“I assure you, I am not.”
“Neo doesn’t have much of a sense of humor.” Zephyr shook his head like he pitied the other man.
Which she noticed made Neo’s jaw clench and he turned a less-than-pleased look on his friend.
Zephyr put his hands out in the universal What, me? gesture. “I’m only speaking the truth.”
Neo did not appear mollified. “I’m going to show you just how little a sense of humor I have in a minute.”
Zephyr pushed away from the table and headed to the door. “Ah, reduced to threats. My job here is done.” He looked back at Cass. “Nice to meet you, Miss Baker.”
He grinned. “Nice to meet you, Cass.”
“It was a pleasure to meet you, too.”
“Have fun on your day off.” Zephyr winked at Neo.
Neo flipped him a rude hand gesture.
Cass gasped and started laughing as the conference room door closed behind the departing tycoon.
“I apologize. I shouldn’t have done that in front of you.”
Cass was still smiling when she shook her head at Neo. “If you can’t tell, I’m amused, not offended. I liked watching the interplay between you.”