“Love?” she asked, clueing in to the fact that even in the abstract he wasn’t comfortable saying the word. Never mind the obvious reality that he thought she wasn’t just lacking in cynicism but was encumbered with a big dose of emotional naiveté.
“It goes without saying you won’t make the same mistake.”
He shrugged one shoulder. “I have never fallen for any of the women I’ve taken to my bed.”
“If you had, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.” And even the thought had the power to hurt her. Maybe she was more at risk here than she realized.
“The truth is, I don’t think I’m a guy who does the softer emotions.”
“Ah, you don’t think you are capable of love?”
“I have never loved anyone, never been loved by anyone.”
She knew that wasn’t true. The affection he and Zephyr shared was love if she’d ever seen it. They loved like brothers. Like family. She hadn’t experienced it but she knew what it looked like. Family love. Neo was clearly uncomfortable acknowledging the feeling but he’d been lucky to experience it.
The discussion was moot in regard to her anyway. She hadn’t engendered unconditional love in her own parents, no way was it going to spring forth from Neo’s manly chest in relation to her. She had never expected to be loved—longed for it, but never expected it. And it had been years since she allowed herself to even daydream about such a thing. She didn’t feel as lonely when she didn’t dwell on what she could not have.
And she wasn’t going to let it stop her from having what she could.
“I’m not expecting love from you,” she told him honestly.
“WHAT do you expect?”
“Nothing. I learned a long time ago that expectations lead to disappointment.”
“What are you looking for, then?”
“I’m not sure I’m looking for anything. Your advent into my life was like a comet dropping from the sky, totally unanticipated and a little earthshaking, if you want the truth. Your friendship is a remarkable gift.”
He took a deep breath and stepped back. “That’s it then.”
“But sex would be wonderful, too.” Not that she thought wonderful even began to describe what she would feel sharing her body with this man.
“So it is a matter of opportunity.”
“Not exactly.” She hadn’t dated. She’d never kissed, but she’d met men who wanted to bed her. Groupies that might be rich and snobby, but were groupies nonetheless and frankly, they’d scared her silly.
Almost as badly as getting on stage to play a concert. Talk about performance anxiety. What would someone who almost deified her because of something she couldn’t control—her talent—expect from her in bed?
“But you do want me now?”
“Right now?” she asked with an embarrassing hitch in her voice.
“Yes, right now.”
“I always want you,” she admitted quietly. “From the very beginning I’ve wanted you, even when I didn’t recognize what that feeling was.”
“But you recognize it now?”
“Yes.” And how. It was a screaming ache inside her. And he was offering to assuage it. She could have cried with relief.
“And you are ready to act on those feelings?”
“Here? Now?” Her voice had gone high with nerves, though to be honest—yes, and yes.
“Do you have other plans?”
He smiled, almost indulgently, though his demeanor was anything but. He looked like an ancient warrior contemplating his next conquering. “I think tea can wait.”
She could do nothing but nod. Tea could wait. He could not. Her virginity would not. She maintained a fa7#231;ade of semicalm on the outside, but inside, she was shaking.
He must have sensed it because he bent down and picked her up, one arm under her legs and another behind her back. Just like always, she felt safe with him, even when faced with the unknown. He turned and headed down the hall that led to the bedrooms.
“I don’t want to get naked in a bed tons of other women have gotten sweaty in.” Not only did her heart—which wasn’t supposed to be engaged in this—rebel, but so did her ick factor.
The last must be the only thing that registered with him because instead of getting all worried that she was getting emotionally carried away, he laughed. “I change the sheets or rather, my housekeeper does.”
“I don’t care. We can use a guest bed.”
“Actually, we cannot.”
She frowned up at him.
“When I bring them back to my penthouse, I don’t take women to my bedroom, we go into the guest room.”