He was more than a good friend, he was the best. He didn’t just enjoy the same interests she did, he cared about her and watched over her. He’d helped her build her business by recommending her to other developers, he’d even taken care of her once when she had the flu. He’d done his utmost to provide her a miniholiday and make it special. And he’d succeeded.
He treated her like a queen, never dismissing her intelligence or condescending to her. She snuggled into his strong arms, sensual pleasure running up her spine as he brushed his leg across her thigh in his sleep. And he made love to her like the world’s most accomplished gigolo. She could not forget that important little fact.
Imagining what Zephyr would think of being compared to a sexual mercenary, she had to smile. Rather than take offense, the arrogant tycoon would probably preen. His sexual prowess was a source of pride for him. If only he was as open to love as he was to making love, she would not be in such a quandary.
Unhappy with her thoughts and the conclusions she felt drawn to because of them, she lay beside him, watching his gorgeous face in repose.
A dark lock of his hair fell over his forehead, doing nothing to make him look less intimidating, even in sleep. She’d always heard even the most ruthless men looked younger and more vulnerable in their sleep, but not Zephyr. Although he was unconscious to the world, he still did not relax completely. He appeared ready to wake and jump into the crowded moments of his day at any moment.
Had he learned that type of subconscious awareness living with his mother in the seedy underworld of Athens, in the orphanage or on the streets, where he had fought for a chance at a worthwhile life? After their discussion at the Acropolis, aspects of his personality that had always intrigued her made more sense.
When she had first met Zephyr, she had believed he was a charming, rather laid-back businessman. Watching him in action at work, she had soon learned differently. While Zephyr appeared to be relaxed, even borderline indolent, he kept meticulous track of every aspect of his developments.
He had a knack for keeping even the most artistic temperament on track and on schedule. There was a certain element of ruthlessness she’d seen under the surface that never quite broke through his “let’s cooperate and get this job done” businessman’s façade. It only showed in a quick comment here, a directed instruction there, all delivered with that game-face smile she’d hated having directed at her during dinner the night before.
But when Zephyr Nikos spoke, everyone listened. Everyone. He was brilliant. He was wealthy. He was a true force to be reckoned with. Honestly? She wasn’t sure what he was doing with her, a woman struggling to build an interior design firm in Seattle after her ex-husband shredded her reputation in New York.
He might be fantastic for her, but she wasn’t really in his league, which only made their friendship that much more precious and their pseudo-lovers relationship that much more difficult to understand from his point of view.
Falling in love with him might have been inevitable, but getting involved sexually had not. She’d had a choice and she’d made it believing she could handle the limitations of what he was offering. She’d been mistaken. Spectacularly so. How could she have been so stupid? She really did pick badly when it came to choosing men to love.
First, there had been Art, who had seemed like the perfect source of stability, but who had in fact destroyed her security. Then, there was Zephyr, who seemed so charming and open on the surface, but who was actually more closed off than any man she had ever known.
He only lost control in one setting that she knew of—and she knew him as well as anyone, besides maybe Neo Stamos. Zephyr lost control when they made love.
He had from the very beginning, which was why she’d been so sure their intimacy would end up a one-off. He’d looked positively shell-shocked after that first time, his usually perfectly groomed hair askew, and his big body glistening with sweat. She’d been so turned on by his overall state of dishabille; she had initiated another round of lovemaking.
He’d acquiesced soon enough, but the next morning, she’d woken alone and they hadn’t mentioned the sex in any shape or form the next time they spoke. They’d been at the tail end of another job together when the sexual tension thrumming between them blew up into another bout of no-holds-barred sex.
And Piper realized now, that was when she had started really falling for the billionaire tycoon. No matter what she’d told herself at the time about commitment-free sex with a friend. She’d been allowed to see a side of Zephyr Nikos that he showed to no one else. Doing so had captured and enthralled her.