“I don’t do subterfuge well.” She hated social situations to begin with, adding deception to the mix only complicated things to the point of horror for her.
The smile turned into a full-out grin. “That is good to know.”
“Is it?” If she’d thought she’d been in danger before, now was absolute Armageddon.
“Yes. Back to your question. It was a question, was it not?” He spoke with a slight Greek accent she found entirely too delicious.
She needed to get out more. Yeah. Right. That was so going to happen. She bit back a sigh. Not. Not going to happen and no matter how lovely she found his accent, it hardly mattered, did it?
It had surprised her at first, but then she’d decided it was to be expected. The information she had found about him online indicated he had left Greece as a young man. However, one article she read said that he spoke Greek with his business partner and had done several property developments in his country of origin over the years.
“Probably a nosy question, but yes,” she finally answered.
“I do not mind your kind of nosy. The paparazzi demanding to know the name and measurements for my latest girlfriend is another thing entirely.”
Heat suffused her neck and cheeks. “Yes, well, I can guarantee you I won’t be asking those sorts of questions.”
“No, your curiosity is much more innocent.” Which seemed to please him. Odd.
She certainly didn’t find her own innocence all that pleasing.
“To answer it, a man does not amass great wealth in a single lifetime by spending his money frivolously. My clothing is necessary to present a certain façade for our investors and buyers. My watch is rated as technically accurate and as sound as a Rolex, but only cost a few hundred rather than several thousand. My car is expensive enough to impress, but not ridiculously so for something that amounts to nothing more than a piece of equipment to get me from Point A to Point B.”
“Unlike many men, your car is not one of your toys.”
“I stopped playing with toys years before I left the orphanage I never called home.”
She’d read that he had lived in an orphanage before leaving Athens. For all that his publicity people allowed the world to know, there was a cloak of mystery around his growing-up years.
Which was something she could understand. While her official biography for publicity purposes revealed that both her parents were dead, it said nothing about her mother’s protracted illness. Nor did it mention years spent in a house shrouded in silence and steeped in fear of losing the person both she and her father had loved above all others.
Her father’s death as the result of an unexpected, massive heart attack had made the headlines at the time. Mostly because it had heralded the end of rising star Cassandra Baker’s public performances. Her withdrawal into seclusion had garnered more press than a good, if sometimes misguided, man’s death.
“Some men try to make up for losing their childhood by having a second one.”
“I am too busy.”
“Yes, you are.”
“You did not have a childhood, either.” He said it so matter-of-factly.
Like it didn’t really matter. And hadn’t she decided a long time ago, that it didn’t? The past could not be changed.
“Why piano lessons?” she asked Neo, wanting to talk about anything but her dismal formative years.
“I lost a bet.”
“To your business partner?” That made more sense than anything she had been able to come up with on her own.
His brows quirked at her description of Zephyr Nikos. “Yes.”
“If what you say is true, I wonder how he is rated as being as wealthy as you?”
“He spent one hundred thousand dollars on piano lessons you don’t want. That sounds very frivolous to me.”
“I do want the lessons.” Neo looked as if he’d shocked himself with the assertion.
“When I was a youth, I wanted to learn piano. There was no chance then. Now, my time is in even shorter supply than money was to my younger self.”
“And yet you make the time for these lessons.” She could not imagine her own childhood without her piano to take away some of the pain.
“Zephyr does not consider the investment frivolous. He believes I need something besides work to occupy my time.”
“For at least one hour a week.” Though sixty out of the ten thousand and eighty minutes found in a week didn’t sound like much of a relaxing distraction to Cass.
“Still, he could have gotten you lessons with someone who teaches for a living at a much reduced rate.”