Page 35 of The Shy Bride

“Why?”

“I don’t know. It sounds so sentimental, I guess.”


“Truth is not sentimentality,” he said in a tone that left no doubt he was offended.

She stifled a smile. “Well, I’m glad you have that truth in your life.”

“You do not, do you?”

“What do you mean?” But she knew. It wasn’t something she liked to think about.

“You had parents, but they were taken from you long before their deaths by your mother’s illness and your father’s choices.”

She couldn’t deny his observation, but agreeing with it would hurt too much so Cass remained silent.

“And now, you have no one you would call family.”

How true. Online friends could fill her free time, but not the heart’s need for proximity relationships. And her agoraphobia prevented her from developing those. Oh, she made friends on occasion, certainly more frequently than Neo seemed to.

But eventually all those she would call friend got fed up with her limitations and either moved on, or turned into what she considered martyr friends. Those people that wouldn’t dump her because of her issues, but who so obviously wished they were elsewhere when they were with her.

She was determined to enjoy every moment of her friendship with Neo.

But even with that resolve, the loneliness of her life rose up and slapped her emotions a stinging blow. However, she made herself shrug noncommittally. “I have friends.”

“None that you trust as I trust Zephyr.”

“I never trusted my parents as much as you trust him. And I wouldn’t have trusted siblings that way, either.” Maybe. It helped her to believe that right then.

“You cannot know that.”

She should have known he would call her on it. “You’re correct, of course. In fact, don’t laugh, but my favorite daydream as a child was that I had brothers and sisters who loved me for me and not because I could play a piano the way I do.”

“There is nothing in that to make me laugh.” He reached across the table and cupped her cheek. “Know this—our friendship does not rely on your playing piano.”

And even though she was his piano teacher and he was a fan of her music, she believed him. “Thank you.”

“We have two hours until my next meeting, is there something particular you would like to do?”

“Do you watch movies?”

“It is one of my guilty pleasures.”

She grinned, internally shaking off the negative thoughts their conversation had produced. “A movie then.”

He showed her his collection and she discovered that Neo had another secret besides the stock that made up his portfolio. The man liked old movies. The classics. They watched a film starring Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, both laughing in all the same places.

When it was over, Neo had to return to his office for a meeting. “You can stay up here if you like.”

“Thank you, I’d like that.” She sighed. “I wish I’d known you had a pool. I would have brought my suit.”

“Zephyr and I keep a selection of swimsuits in the changing room for our female guests. I’m sure you could find one to fit you.”

“Are you serious?”

“Yes. They are replaced each spring with a selection of the season’s new styles.”

“I suppose for a couple of playboys like you, that’s not a wasteful expenditure.”

“It has come in handy a time or two,” he admitted without a single blush.

“I bet.” It took her a second to realize the emotion she was feeling was jealousy, but she refused to acknowledge it. She did not have that kind of a claim on Neo, even if he had kissed her. Twice.

“You can access the pool through that door. You’ll have to prop it open with a chair because it locks automatically when it closes. I’ll have a key made for you to access this floor, but it won’t open my apartment, or Zephyr’s.”

So, his trust of her only extended so far. No surprise that. The only true shock was that he trusted her at all. She shook her head at him. “You’ve got a real thing about locked doors, don’t you?”

“Safety first.”

She cracked up.

Amusement still showed on his face when he left.

She found a burnt orange bikini that fit as if it had been made for her and changed into it. If the sexiness of the cut might tempt Neo to further kissing extravagances, who was she to argue? Who was she kidding? Neo wasn’t about to be tempted by her not-so-curvy form.

She still liked the swimsuit. It made her feel sexy, even if maybe she wasn’t exactly femme fatale material. And she found she felt perfectly comfortable at the thought of Neo seeing her in it. Even if it didn’t tempt him to mindmelting kisses.

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