The knob rattled. “Cassandra, open the door.”
The voice sounded like Neo, but she could not accept that he was there. She hated being like this. Didn’t want anyone else to know how bad it got, but the rational part of her mind told her to open the door.
The next knock was almost gentle and so was Neo’s tone. “Please, little one, open the door.”
She forced cramped muscles to work and stood. “I’m…I’m coming,” she croaked.
He said something forceful in Greek and then, “Good. Thank you. Open the door.”
She reached out and unlocked the door, then pulled it open.
The man standing there did not look like Neo’s usual imperturbable self. He wasn’t wearing his suit jacket and his expression was nothing less than grim.
She wiped at her face with the back of her hand. “I…they…someone leaked your Tuesday lessons to the media.”
“I thought they might come inside.”
“It is a good thing they did not.”
She nodded, in total agreement.
“You look like you could use a hot shower. I will make you some tea.”
“I…yes, that’s a good idea.” She looked around herself at the bathroom, at Neo, and her gaze skimmed the mirror then went screeching back to it.
She looked like a wreck. She hadn’t brushed her hair since waking, her eyes looked haunted, her skin was pale and there were perspiration stains on her shirt. She needed more than a shower. She needed a complete transformation.
But she would have to settle for copious amounts of hot water and the promise of tea.
“Are you all right to be left alone?” Neo asked.
“Yes.” Absolutely mortified by her own behavior, she wouldn’t have asked him to stay even if it meant losing her piano.
She didn’t wonder how he’d gotten into the house until after a twenty-minute shower under very hot water. Mulling the question over, she dried her hair as best she could with a towel. She wasn’t going to get an answer until she went downstairs, so she donned fresh clothes and made her way to the kitchen.
Neo was waiting for her in the otherwise empty room. He indicated a mug of still steaming tea on the table. “Drink up.”
She sat down and took a sip, almost choking on the sweetness. “How much sugar did you use?”
“For a sugaraholic maybe.”
“Sweet tea is good for shock.”
“You say that like you know.”
“I called my PA, had her look it up.”
Cass laughed. She couldn’t help it. “I bet she enjoyed that.”
“How did you get in the house?” she asked.
“Bob let me in.”
“He has a key.”
“I remember him coming,” she admitted. She’d refused to answer when Bob knocked on the bathroom door, sure her manager would try to talk her into giving interviews.
“Only one media van remained when I arrived.”
“What are you doing here?”
“You left a message on my voice mail.”
“I thought you were out of the city.”
He’d come back. To help her? She had a hard time believing that, but she was glad he was there anyway. She glanced at the clock on the microwave and realized it was already early evening.
She’d spent more than eight hours in her bathroom. No wonder she’d been so cramped when she’d finally stood up. “I feel like an idiot.”
“You are no idiot.”
She made a sound of disagreement and took another sip of the overly sweet tea.
He sat down across from her. “You have debilitating anxiety related to performing in public.”
“Yes, but no one was asking me to perform today.”
“Weren’t they? Isn’t that what the paparazzi do every time they insert themselves into our lives? They demand we perform for them and their audience with a prurient interest in the latest gossip.”
“Do you think Bob leaked word of your lessons to the media?” Although she couldn’t imagine the furor of this morning caused by piano lessons.
Neo grabbed a tabloid from the counter behind him and placed it in front of her on the table. It had a picture taken through a telephoto lens of Neo entering her house. “They think you’re something far more interesting than my piano teacher. They believe you are my latest lover.”
She shuddered, not at the thought of being his lover, but at the prospect of being hounded by the media because of the mistaken impression.
“The fact that I kept our relationship secret has given rise to wild speculation and the discovery of your identity only intensified interest.”