Page 52 of The Shy Bride

He laughed, the sound large in her usually silent bedroom. “I’ll stick with unpaid pleasure, thank you.”

“I’m glad. I don’t think I could afford you.”

“You are a nut.”

“So I’ve been told,” she said more soberly than she meant to.

“That is not what I meant. I do not think you are crazy.”

Not yet anyway, but it always came. Sooner or later. That lack of comprehension when she could not make herself do something “normal” people took for granted. Regardless of what the future might hold, she was grateful for his attitude in the present.

“Thank you.”

“My pleasure.”

She grinned and shook her head. “Oh, I think that particular commodity is entirely mutual.”

“Yes.”

“Seriously. If I had known sex was this wonderful, I would have taken up with one of the groupies that showed interest,” she joked, only half-kidding.

“It would not have been like this.”

“Because none of them were the great Neo Stamos?”

“Because no one has ever given me anything approaching the pleasure I find with you. What we have here, Cassandra, it is very special.”

She could think of nothing to say in response to those words that would not reveal the depth of her feeling, so she remained mute, but placed a tender kiss filled with the love she could not give voice onto his shoulder.

He smiled and returned the kiss, on her mouth. “I should not spend the night.”

“Why?”

He sighed. “I have to be at the office at six a.m. for a phone call.”

“Why so early?”

“Time differences.”

“I understand. You could leave early,” she suggested tentatively, unsure if she was reading his desire to stay right, or not.

“If you don’t mind me possibly waking you when I get up to go?”

“I don’t mind.” And if her agreement was offered with the speed of light, who could criticize?

“Then I can sleep here. Thank you.”

She was just very happy he wanted to stay. She’d only spent one night in his arms, but knew it was fast becoming one of her favorite things. Maybe even a necessity. It was the first time anyone had ever stayed overnight, and rather than make her feel anxious it made her feel excited.

Neo didn’t wake her getting out of bed. In fact, she barely woke when he kissed her goodbye and warned her he would be resetting the alarm.

He followed the pattern of the day before, calling her at random intervals to ask this or tell her that. At one point, she teased him, “Why don’t you just admit you called to hear my voice?”

“And if I did?”

“I’d be even more melted than I already am.”

“Then I had better not admit it.”

Did that mean he really did just call to hear her talk? She knew she loved listening to his voice. Adored it, really.

The trip to Napa Valley was incredible. The rental house Miss Parks found for them was nicer than Cass’s own house, with a truly decadent master suite complete with two-person Jacuzzi. The sunken living room was a romantic paradise and Neo took full advantage of the option for candlelight and low-heat gas fireplace.

Cass discovered that flying on a personal jet did not trigger any of her agoraphobic fears. She also discovered that lovemaking was as much fun in the living room as the bedroom and up against a wall as on the bed. She seduced Neo in the pool, but decided after nearly drowning that the Jacuzzi might be the better option.

She slept the entire flight home. Neo worked.

Over the following days, Neo showed no signs of getting bored with her, or frustrated by her limitations. He continued to call her randomly throughout the day and came over or cajoled her into coming to his penthouse almost nightly. She loved swimming in the pool, so she didn’t mind at all. He requested that she use the suit she had the first time and kept it in his private changing room so no one else could. In the event Zephyr had guests. Neo wasn’t seeing anyone else.

So, a couple of weeks later, when he suggested she try hypnotherapy as they lay in bed together after making love, she didn’t automatically assume he was like everyone else. Trying to fix her because she was not good enough the way she was.

“Bob suggested that a couple of years ago, but I wasn’t willing to consider it because I knew he just wanted me to get well enough to perform publicly.”

“I do not care if you ever perform for an audience. If you wanted it, I would do all in my power to help you achieve it, but you don’t. However, I know you feel the pain of the limits your fears put on your life.”

“I would like to go out to a restaurant with you without breaking into a sweat over it, or hyperventilating if someone recognizes me.” She’d done well at the wine-tasting in Napa Valley and they’d eaten out there as well, at a quiet, intimate restaurant where no one but the waitstaff would have considered speaking to her.

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