Page 31 of The Shy Bride

“No, none of them became your friend.”

She shook her head. “A Greek tycoon for a friend. Who would have thought it?”

“It only matters that I did.”

“Too true.” She grinned.

“You get letters though,” he surmised, going back to the original topic as they stepped up onto the platform where the baby grand piano rested.

Cassandra slid onto the piano bench, her hands caressing the piano as if it was a dear friend she was meeting for the first time. If that made any sense. “Some. Fans only have my CD label’s address to send them to. Someone there answers fan mail and passes the letters along to me a couple of times a year.”

“I suppose the demand for your music speaks for itself.”

“That’s what I tell myself.”

“Do you miss it?”

She looked up at him, her amber gaze taking his breath away for a second. “What?”

He swallowed, forcing down a reaction that was not acceptable. She was his friend. “Performing.”

“No.” She shuddered, a look of true revulsion coming over her features.

“You didn’t enjoy it at all?”

“I hated it. The only thing that kept me sane was the music itself.”

“But—”

“I wanted to be home with my mother, not on the road with my father, or more often with a minder. I knew she was ill and I was terrified every time I left on a trip that I would not see her again.”

“You knew she was dying? At such a young age?”

“Yes.” There was a wealth of pain in that single word. “Like any child, I had my own sense of logic and it told me that if I was there, she could not die. I was wrong.” Cassandra shook herself. “Performing for groups of strangers that were allowed to fawn over the child prodigy afterward, saying things they never would have said to an adult performer, I never forgot how much I hated it. Even after Mom died and my dad travelled with me to all my concerts, my earlier feelings colored the experience.”

“He pushed you to keep performing.”

“Even when Mom got very, very, very sick. Just as I’d always feared would happen, she died when I was on tour in Europe. I was seventeen. They didn’t tell me until two days later—my father put me off when I tried to phone her.

She’d been so weak, I believed him when he said she was resting every time I called. I felt selfish asking her to call me, like it would tax her waning strength too much.”

CHAPTER SEVEN

“THAT is monstrous!” Neo wanted to hit something, but there was nothing to hit and no one to yell at for the sins committed against this woman. “Why would they do such a thing?”

“They didn’t want to spoil the last performances on the tour. My father and Bob said I owed all my fans the best I was capable of.”

He cursed in Greek. Colorfully.

Cassandra’s lips twisted in a near smile. “Exactly. My father channeled his grief into my career.”

“Where did you channel yours?”

“Into the music.”

“But you hated it.”

“Not the music, just the concerts.”

“So, when he died you stopped torturing yourself.”

“That’s how I saw it. My manager does not agree.”

“Naturally not.”

“Bob thinks I’m hiding from my parents’ deaths by surrounding myself with their things.”

“Isn’t he the one who convinced you to get rid of their personal things?” And why the hell was the man still her manager?

“Yes, not that it made a bit of difference in my desire to go on tour.”

“Not the catharsis he was expecting then.”

“All I know is that the idea of getting on a stage in a packed concert hall makes me want to throw up.”

“Do not worry. I will not ever ask you to play for me and I will ensure Zephyr does not, either.”

Her mood changed with a flash and nothing but pleasure glowed in her lovely amber gaze. “I wouldn’t mind playing for you.”

His knees wanted to give, whether it was from the shock of her offer or the effect her clear happiness at the thought had on him, he did not know. Hiding the momentary weakness, Neo slid next to her on the bench at the Steinway. “You would play for me?”

“What are friends for?” she asked, tossing his own words back at him and making him smile.

“I would like that very much.”

“Then consider it done.” She grinned, all shadows gone from her features for the moment. She tipped her head down and looked at him shyly through her lashes. “I didn’t know if I would want to, but I do. In fact, I look forward to it. I used to really enjoy playing for my parents.”

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