“I like being her friend. I don’t want to ruin that.”
“And having sex with her would do that?”
“Of course. Wouldn’t it?”
“On what her expectations are going into the sex. When both people are on the same playing field, sex between friends can be more mind blowing than anything you’ll experience with a mere hookup.”
He wasn’t sure he and Cassandra couldbe on level playing ground. “She’s a virgin,” he told his friend with simple honesty. “Totally innocent.”
“At her age?”
“Yes, and another reason not to take her to my bed.”
“Unless she’s tired of being inexperienced. Are you sure her state is by choice?” he asked in a tone that implied Zephyr knew something about this sort of situation from his own experience.
“What do you mean?”
“Think about it. Cass has lived her whole life for her ailing mother and her music. I doubt her father let her date when she was younger and now she’s got this agoraphobia thing going on. When is she going to meet a man she might enjoy making love to?”
“That’s not the point.”
“No. I can’t be that man.” That was the point.
“Because she’ll end up hurt. She’s not like my—”
“Other hookups? Maybe it’s time you graduated beyond the one-night stand.”
“I am not looking for a relationship. I don’t have the time.”
“Everyone has time for friends, Neo.”
“No, they do not.”
“Let me rephrase that. Everyone should make time for friends. What’s the point of being at the top of your pyramid if there isn’t anyone up there with you to enjoy it?”
“I have you.”
“Your business partner and only friend. Hell, Neo, half the time you and I are in different countries dealing with our business.”
“So, you can’t spend all your time working.”
“This record is getting old, Zee.”
“Is it? Or is it finally starting to sink in?”
“You know you are a hypocrite, don’t you?”
“We aren’t talking about me right now.”
“Good thing for your sake.”
“Right. Listen, does Cass want you?”
“I think so, yes.” Hell, if he was wrong then somebody shoot him now, he’d lost his ability to read people.
“So, let her know the score and allow her to make her own choice.”
“She might not make the one best for her.”
“She’s an adult, Neo. It is her call.”
“You make it sound so damn simple.”
“And you are letting it get way more complicated than it needs to be.”
Neo didn’t need Zephyr to tell him sex with Cassandra would be better than any hookup. His body had been yelling that very message at him since she’d opened her door to him the first time. In fact, he realized he didn’t need Zee to tell him anything at all.
He already knew what he wanted and he damn well knew what he was going to do about it.
Maybe she wasn’t his usual type, but she wasn’t the Plain Jane he had first considered her. Cassandra was no supermodel.
Damn it, she was better.
She might love her bright designer fashions, but there wasn’t a vain bone in her body. Her innocent sensuality was a thousand times more provocative than another woman’s practiced seduction and he had the erection from hell to prove it.
Neo had never practiced self-denial when it came to sex. He met a woman he wanted, she wanted him, too, and they danced the horizontal mamba a few bars. Well, he wanted Cassandra, and he was damn sure she wanted him, too, but for the first time, that wasn’t the only consideration at hand.
The blow dryer cut off. Neo’s hands fisted at his sides as he fought through an internal quagmire of conflicting thoughts. One thing shone through the rest—Cassandra Baker had spent twenty-nine years being denied aspects to life most people took for granted. First by the circumstances of her childhood and then by the limitations of the anxiety that plagued her.
He could give her a taste of passion—more than a taste, a whole buffet. Maybe friendship didn’t have to preclude sex. Not if both people wanted it.
And Neo wanted it. So did Cassandra.
Cass walked into the kitchen expecting to find Neo making tea, which was such a domestic thing to do, it really endeared him to her.
What she did not expect was the feral gleam in his green eyes and the clear tension thrumming through his body.
“Are you all right, Neo?” she asked, wondering if she should have put her suit jacket back on and not sure why that particular thought was flitting through her brain.