Page 33 of The Shy Bride

She returned to the piano bench. She didn’t ask him to leave it and he was curiously hesitant to do so. So, he stayed.

She started to play a piece he recognized from one of her early albums. It was a particular favorite of his and he sat quietly while she played it just for him. It wasn’t a long, or complicated piece, so it was over all too soon, but he would cherish the memory of that impromptu entertainment for years to come.

She looked sideways at him. “That was just a warm-up.”

She really was going to play a new piece. Again just for him. Her fingers danced across the keys, coaxing gorgeous sounds from the Steinway and he knew this new CD would be one of her best yet.

When she finished she looked up at him and smiled. “It’s nice, isn’t it?”

He didn’t know if she meant the piano or the piece, but he said, “Yes,” to both. “Thank you.” He looked down at her, hard pressed to refrain from following his gratitude with a kiss.

She tilted her head back and met his gaze, her amber eyes glowing with joy from the music and something he could not define. “You are welcome. That was the first time I’ve ever played in a public place and enjoyed it.”

The showroom wasn’t exactly a concert hall, but he was proud of her for keeping her end of the bargain all the same. “Glad to be of service.”

“You make me feel safe.”

He was lost for words.

She blushed and ducked her head. “Isn’t it about time we got back for lunch?”

“I’m sure it is.” He tipped her face up so their eyes met. The moment was too profound to ignore. “Thank you.”

“I…”

“I have rarely in my life been as honored as I am by your trust in me.” His head tilted forward of its own volition.

She let out a soft puff of air. “Are you going to kiss me again?”

“Not a good idea.”

“Why?”

“We are friends.”

“And friends cannot kiss.” She smiled and pulled her chin from his hand, clearly trying to lighten the atmosphere between them.

He would do his part. “I have never kissed Zephyr.”

“Liar.”

That made him reel back. “I have never kissed a man.”

“That whole kissing on the cheek thing you Greek guys do? What’s that?”

“Oh.” Heat climbed the cheeks she mentioned. “That is not the same.” At all.

“No, but it’s still a kiss.”

“You are walking a dangerous path, pethi mou.”

“Pethi mou?”

“Little one.” His little one, but he didn’t need to tell her that bit.

“I’m not that little.”

“Compared to me?”

“You’re just oversized.”

“I thought that was my ego.”

“O-ho, so you have perturbed a girlfriend, or two.”

“I’ve never had a girlfriend, but yes, more than one pillow-mate has remarked that I have a rather healthy ego.”

“I’ll bet.”

“I will tell you what I tell them—it is deserved.”

“And do they agree?”

“Naturally.”

She bit her lip, looking away from him, that adorable expression he could easily become addicted to on her features. He liked Cassandra Baker shy. He wondered if he should tell her.

Not everyone thought she had to perform publicly to be valuable.

“I’ve never had a boyfriend, either,” she whispered, breaking in to his thoughts.

“Never?” That should not have shocked him, but it did. He had guessed she was a virgin, but to be wholly innocent of male-female games? He could not imagine it.

“Um…no.”

“How old are you?”

“Twenty-nine. I’m a real freak, aren’t I?”

“What?” He grabbed her shoulders and made her meet his eyes by sheer force of will. When her amber gaze was looking into his, he said, “You are precious, but are you saying this morning was your first kiss?”

“Well, actually, um…yes.”

Oh, hell, didn’t his libido just love that? “I wish I’d known.”

“Why?”

“I would have made it special.”

“It felt pretty special to me.”

“It could have been better.”

“How?”

“It’s not something I can explain with words.”

“Novelists do.”

“I’m a businessman, not a writer. I’ll have to show you.”

“Here?” she squeaked.

“Yes.” He covered her lips with his before she could get another query out.

Gently. More carefully than he had ever kissed another woman. Even his first time. But damn. The knowledge no other man had done this battered at his vaunted self-

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