Page 5 of The Shy Bride

He did as she suggested, looking much more relaxed in front of the piano than she would have in his high-rise office.

A few inches over six feet, he was tall for the bench, and yet he did not look awkward there.

His body did not have the lithe grace or, conversely, the extra weight around the middle of most male pianists she knew, but was well-honed and very muscular. His hands were strong, with long but squared fingers bearing the wrong calluses for a pianist or a billionaire, if she were to guess it. His suit was more appropriate for a boardroom than her music room, and yet he did not look ill at ease in the least.

Perhaps the sable-haired, superrich Adonis simply did not have the awkward gene like normal people.

“Can I get you anything to drink before we begin?”

“We have already spent several minutes of the hour allotted for this lesson, perhaps you would find it more efficient to dispense with the pleasantries.”

“I do not mind going a few minutes over so you get your full lesson,” she said, feeling guilty but equally certain she had nothing to be guilty for.

“I do.”

“I see.” Strangely enough, his abrupt manner was easing some of her anxiety.

Or was that simply because he had not brought the entourage she had feared? Regardless, she was finding the new situation much less excruciating than she had anticipated. Her gratitude over that fact made her want to be accommodating.

So, no pleasantries then. “Perhaps next week, you should forego ringing the bell and simply come inside,” she offered.

His far too compelling green gaze narrowed. “You do not lock your door?” He didn’t wait for her to answer before informing her, “I flipped the dead bolt when I closed it.”

No doubt a man in his position would find it second nature to double-lock a door behind him. “I’m surprised you don’t have bodyguards that have vetted the house.”

Really, really surprised.

“I do have security but I do not live a sitcom cop show. You were thoroughly vetted before my PA called to schedule the lessons.” He gave her slight frame a cursory perusal. “And you hardly pose a personal threat to me.”

“I see.” Vague discomfort at the fact she had been investigated settled in her stomach.

“It was not personal.”

“Just necessary.” As had been her research of him on the Internet.

Although, she suspected the background check done on her had been far more invasive. No doubt, he knew her history. He was aware of what her manager termed her idiosyncrasies. And yet, he did not treat her like a freak.

“Exactly.” He looked pointedly at his watch. Not a Rolex.

She found that interesting, but didn’t comment on it. He’d made it very clear he was there for a piano lesson, not conversation. Again, his brusque approach was unexpectedly comforting.

The remainder of the hour went by surprisingly quickly.

Despite an entirely different sort of tension the tycoon elicited in Cass.

Neo did not understand the sense of anticipation he felt Tuesday morning when he woke and realized his second piano lesson would be today.

Cassandra Baker was exactly as the background check on her had implied she would be. Rather quiet, clearly uncomfortable with strangers and yet something about her charmed him. There were far more important events on his agenda, but his second meeting with the world-renowned pianist who refused to perform publicly was the first one that came to his mind.

Neo could not believe how much he had enjoyed his time with Cassandra Baker.

She was no beauty with her mousy brown hair, light freckles and slight build, and she was not the usual type of woman he found entertaining. More the average “girl next door” and he would readily admit he met few of those in his current lifestyle. And he would not have met her without Zephyr’s intervention.

Zee was also the person to introduce Neo to Cassandra’s music. His partner had given him her CDs for his birthday and Christmas. Neo started out listening to them when working out on the weight machines, then he would play them sometimes when he was working on the computer. Eventually, it got to where he had Cassandra’s music playing pretty much anytime he was home.

He didn’t concentrate on who the artist was, just played the music off his MP3 player. He hadn’t even recognized her name on the gift certificate for his lessons. Not until the preliminary background report on her came in. That was the first time he realized she composed most of the music he found so pleasing as well.

And he wasn’t the only one—Cassandra Baker was a top-selling New Age artist. He would not have expected such a popular musician to be so unassuming. Yet she made no effort to allude to her undeniable talent or fame, further cementing her girl-next-door qualities.

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