“Zephyr and I believe in hiring the best people for the job. You are a master pianist.”
“So I have been told.” Many, many times since she was discovered as a child musical prodigy at the age of three.
“It is your turn to answer a question for me.”
“If you like.” And if she could. She braced herself for the question most people asked, and the one for which she did not have an answer anyone had found satisfying thus far.
“Why do you give lessons to the charity auction every year when you are a career composer and pianist, not actually a teacher?”
For a moment, she was so stunned he had not asked what everyone else did—why she had stopped performing publicly—that she was stumped for an answer. Finally, her brain caught up with his curiosity and she said, “Many up-and-coming pianists want to study with me. This is the one chance they have to do so.”
“Why present the opportunity at all?”
“Because as much as I prefer a quiet life, one without any new people in it at all can get lonely. And I don’t want to be that person. The woman who lives her life as a hermit.” Even though in many ways that was exactly what she did.
“Were you disappointed to discover your lessons had been bought by a novice?”
“No, more nervous. Terrified really.” She gave him a self-deprecating smile. “I was so dismayed, I begged my manager to get me out of it.”
“He did not approach Zephyr, or myself to cancel the lessons.”
Neo’s eyes narrowed, but she wasn’t sure what was making him look less than pleased. “Why were you so frightened? Even with your condition, you had done this before.”
“Not for a successful billionaire.”
“I am just like any other man.”
It was her turn to frown, unhappy with his false assertion. “For a man who appreciates a lack of deception in others, that lie slid off your tongue rather easily. No way do you believe you are like every other man.”
That almost smile touched his features again. “You are more observant than even I gave you credit for being.”
“You aren’t self-delusional and you aren’t like any other man, therefore you could not believe it.”
He shrugged. “Few men have the single-minded determination to achieve what Zephyr and I have done.”
“And now Zephyr is worried you’re too single-minded?”
“I made the mistake of sharing some concerns my doctor voiced on my last physical. Gregor, who is Zephyr’s friend as well as my doctor, reiterated those concerns to him.”
“The concerns shocked you, didn’t they?” she asked, certain she knew the answer and a little surprised at herself for being willing to banter like this.
“How do you know that?”
“You strike me as a man who keeps himself in optimum physical condition as part of maintaining your position at the zenith of personal success. It would astound you that there was some element you had not accounted for.”
“I thought you were a pianist, not a psychiatrist.”
This, at least, she could explain. “It is easier to watch other people than to interact with them. It naturally follows that someone with my curiosity would try to figure out what makes them tick.”
“You are uncannily accurate.”
“Thank you for admitting it. I like honesty, too.”
“That is something important we have in common.”
She shifted beside him on the piano bench, trying to ignore the instant and growing reaction she’d had to his nearness since the first lesson.
“Yes. The other thing is that we both want you to learn piano. Let’s get back to it.”
Cass had no frame of reference for her response to Neo.
Which was probably why, at twenty-nine she had absolutely no experience in the bedroom. She’d had no time for dating when she was doing concert tours and she’d been doing them since childhood. After stopping public performance, she did not put herself in situations she might meet potential dates. All of which left her in the unenviable situation of being twenty-nine years old and never having been kissed with romantic intent.
And certainly she had never—not once before meeting Neo Stamos—felt this constriction deep in her belly. She’d read about arousal, but never experienced it. Which she knew made her a freak in the eyes of most of the world. But she wasn’t just a virgin, she was wholly innocent and unsure how or if she ever wanted to risk changing that state.
When her nipples tightened into almost painful points, she had to bite her lip to keep a gasp from slipping past her lips. And this happened each and every time she sat beside Neo on the piano bench. Sometimes, even without him being there. The memory of their one hour together a week was enough to bring forth her first taste of physical passion.