No way in hell, but he wasn’t ready to say that. He was still grappling with the feelings he’d forced himself to acknowledge. Like the debilitating fear the thought of losing her caused. “We would still be friends.”
“No?” Sharp pain lanced through him.
“Maybe. I don’t know. You’ve done so much for me. You’re the best friend I’ve ever had. You’ve been better to me than anyone in my life, including my parents. I wouldn’t just ditch your friendship, but I don’t know if I could handle watching you with other women.” The pain in her voice nearly brought him to his knees.
It was unthinkable. “I would not ask you to.”
She just gave him a look.
“Do you want more?” he asked her, marshalling his thoughts and arguments so he did not lose the most important person in his life.
“What difference would it make if I did? You don’t. You made that clear enough.”
“Maybe I was wrong.”
“The things I want need something a lot stronger than maybe.”
“What is love?”
Cass stared at Neo in shock. “What do you mean? You know what love is.”
“No, in fact, I do not.”
“I have never been in love and no one has ever loved me.”
“Zephyr loves you like a brother.”
“I have no desire to marry Zephyr.”
“You don’t want to marry me, either.”
“I was wrong.”
“I do want to marry you. I want everything, but I did not feel I had the right to ask for it.”
She started to cry again and swiped at her cheeks. “Why would you say that?”
“I understand business, but relationships are something else entirely.”
“You have been so good to me I don’t know how you could question your ability to maintain a relationship.”
“Do you think I have been good to you?”
“Good.” He looked relieved. As if there could be any doubt. “That is good.”
“Neo, even though we are just friends, you treat me like a princess. You would make an amazing husband and father.”
“We are not just friends,” he said in a voice like shattered glass.
“We aren’t?” Oh, please, please convince her.
“What are we then?”
“Everything. You are my everything and that is what I wish to be to you.”
“You already are.” She walked forward and reached up to put both her hands on either side of his handsome face. “How could you not know that? Neo, you are everything I have ever wanted, or ever could want. I love you, with everything that I am.”
He pulled her close, tilting his head until their eyes had no choice but to lock gazes. “I love you. I have never said that to another person, but I will never stop saying it to you. I was afraid.”
“Afraid of what?”
“Not being worthy of your love.”
She didn’t ask him how he could think that. His formative years explained it all. “Your parents didn’t deserve you, not the other way around.”
“Intellectually, I know this.”
“I’m going to make sure you realize it deep in your heart as well. I love you, Neo, so much.”
“I adore you, yineka mou, and I always will.”
“Even with the hypnotherapy, I’ll probably always be shy. I won’t ever be a big society hostess.”
“It does not matter. I do not want a big society hostess. I want you. And I want a wife…a woman who will maybe one day help me make a family different than the ones either of us knew growing up.”
Oh, yes. “I can’t imagine anything better.”
“Neither can I.”
Then he kissed her, or she kissed him…she really wasn’t sure how their lips met, but meet they did and it was the most profound kiss in the history of kisses. It spoke of true love, and deep need and hopes and dreams deferred and almost lost, but found again leading to joy unimaginable.
She was in his lap when their lips finally parted. “What is yineka mou?”
“My woman, my wife.”
She pressed their foreheads together, her fears laid completely to rest. “Oh, Neo. There really was never any doubt, was there?” He’d been calling her his for a very long time.
“No, my very precious woman, there never was. I just had to face a truth that scared the hell out of me. There was someone in this world more important to me than my business, or anything or anyone else.”
“It is the same for me.”
“I know and I’m so glad.”