Page 32 of The Shy Bride

But no one else, or so her words implied. “I am honored. It is something I will look forward to with great anticipation.”

Smiling, Cassandra concentrated on the instrument in front of her. She looked to check that the door was shut on the soundproof room and then played a short piece, not any music he recognized, just a series of chords. Her head was cocked as if listening for something he couldn’t begin to hear.

It sounded fine to him. More than fine.

“Well?” he asked, when she sat in silence for several seconds after the keys fell silent.

“Try your scales on it.”

He played the keys as she’d taught him at the first lesson. “Now, try a few of the chords you’ve learned.” He did.

“What do you think?” she asked.

“It’s good?” he asked in uncharacteristic hesitation.

“Did the keys feel natural, not clunky?”

He considered and then nodded. “They felt fine.”

“A baby grand really does have better key play than an upright, but nothing can compare to a concert grand like I have. I’m spoiled, but this is a nice instrument.” She patted the top of the Steinway.

“What you are saying is that it is not as nice as yours though.”

“Buying a Fazioli for a beginner would be an excessive extravagance and you told me you don’t squander money indiscriminately. Besides, their waiting list is a long one.”

“A Steinway isn’t an extravagance?” he asked with a quirk of his lips.

“Not at the price they’re offering it.”

“So, we are getting a deal?” he asked, making no effort to hide his relish at the thought.

“I told you we were. A very good one.” She told him how much they would be saving and even he was impressed.

“I knew bringing you with me would be a benefit.”

She laughed and shook her head before playing a simple children’s tune as if her fingers could not stay still that close to a well-tuned instrument.

He caught the salesman’s eye through the glass and waved the man over.

Neo handed the salesman a black American Express card when he entered the soundproof room. “We’ll take it. You can arrange delivery with my personal assistant. Here is my business card. Call this number and it will go directly to her line.”

“Very good, Mr. Stamos. We’ll arrange a piano tuner to accompany the movers so it is ready for use directly after delivery.”

Cassandra nodded her approval and Neo said, “Fine.”

The salesman left with Neo’s American Express and business cards, but neither Neo nor Cassandra moved to get up from the piano bench.

She brushed her fingertips along the keys. “It’s been a few years since I bought a new instrument.”

“Getting the urge?”

“To replace my Fazioli? Never. But I might be persuaded to buy some new music for my flute.”

“So, you decided you could afford to play a second instrument.”

“I dabble, like I said, but sure, why not? If I can learn foreign languages and make time for Tai Chi, why not play a second instrument as a hobby?”

“Zephyr says I have no hobbies.”

“Don’t worry.” She patted his back consolingly. “You have one now. Playing the piano.”

“Yes.”

“Let’s work on some chords.”

“Here?”

She looked around the soundproof room and the mostly empty showroom beyond. “Why not?”

“Isn’t that like performing?”

“No one can hear us in here.”

“You’re addicted. That’s what this is about, isn’t it? You miss your piano?”

“I’ll make a deal with you. You learn two chords and I’ll play a short piece from my newest score for you.”

“Here?” he asked again, inelegantly.

“Where else? It’s soundproof in here and we can close the drape over the window for extra privacy. And we can’t exactly go back to my house.”

“We could, but I’d prefer you not return to the scene of the crime until the last bit of sawdust has been vacuumed up.”

“Scene of the crime is right.”

“Stop whining and show me a chord.”

He couldn’t believe how much he enjoyed learning the chords she wanted to teach him. No one bothered them. Not even the salesman, who came in quietly only to leave the receipt and paperwork for Neo’s purchase on top of the piano, and then left just as quietly.

“Okay, I think I’ve got it,” he said after playing the chords successfully several times. “Now, it’s your turn to keep your part of the bargain.”

“You got it.” She got up and closed the drape on the window then tugged on the door to make sure it was shut.

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