Alien excitement thrummed through her now, making her thighs quiver and her heart rate increase beyond what even anxiety at meeting a new person produced.
This would never do. She had to get hold of her reactions before she made an absolute fool of herself, but so far telling herself that truth did nothing to diminish this…this…this ardor she felt for her student.
She tried to do what she had always done when life got too uncomfortable—concentrate on her music. It didn’t always work. Nevertheless, fitting her fingers over the keys, she forced herself to show Neo the newest pattern she wanted him to learn.
“The sound of you playing on this instrument is phenomenal.” Neo’s deep, approving tones exacerbated each one of the reactions sparking through her.
Cass suppressed a telling shiver. “You should hear it really played.”
“One day, perhaps I will.”
“Perhaps.” Though an invitation to sit in the only chair in the room and listen to her play was one she offered so rarely, even her pushy manager had stopped asking her to make exceptions. “Now you try it.”
He stumbled at first, until she laid her fingers over his and led him through it. Which was disastrous for her equilibrium, but pretty efficient in terms of teaching him finger position. By the time his watch alarm went off, he was doing a passable job and she was a quivering mass of nerves hiding beneath her master pianist exterior.
Not so very different from the days when she performed live.
“There are exercises you can do to make your fingers more limber,” she told him without looking up. “I suppose suggesting you practice between lessons would be a waste of my breath.”
He shrugged. “I am enjoying myself more than I expected to.”
“I’m glad.” She smiled. “Music is a balm for your soul.”
“It can be.”
They shared a moment of silent agreement.
He got up from the bench and took a quick glance at his watch with one efficient move of his wrist. “I make no promises about how much practicing I will do, but I will have a piano delivered to my penthouse. My personal assistant will call you for a recommendation.”
Neo’s personal assistant called, but it wasn’t to ask for a purchasing recommendation. It was to cancel Neo’s next lesson. He would be out of Seattle the following week.
“Please do not mention this to anyone. Mr. Stamos’s whereabouts could cause speculation that might adversely affect his current business negotiations.” The woman’s tone made it clear that if it had been left up to her, she would have cancelled the meeting without giving an explanation.
Apparently, Neo had felt otherwise. That knowledge made Cass smile, though she promised to be circumspect in perfectly somber tones.
Unfortunately for her, the fact that Neo was out of the city had not made it to the attention of the media, but his weekly visits to her home had.
She woke up Tuesday morning to the sound of car doors slamming and people talking in strident tones outside her home. She rushed to the bedroom that overlooked the street and peeked out through the privacy curtain.
Three media vans and a couple of cars were parked in front of her home. Someone rang the doorbell even as her eyes took in the spectacle before her.
The doorbell continued to ring as she rushed back to her bedroom to dress. She would just ignore them. She didn’t have to answer. She wasn’t a public person any longer. The media had no call on her time or her person.
Nevertheless, she skipped her morning shower and pulled her clothes on with haste. Someone banged on the French doors to her bedroom and Cass screamed. Her brain told her it was nothing more than an enterprising reporter who had climbed up to the deck off her bedroom, but familiar panic threatened to immobilize her.
She grabbed the phone off her nightstand and dialed her manager. When she told Bob in short staccato bursts what was going on, he told her to calm down. That this kind of media attention was good for CD sales.
Cass didn’t bother to argue. She was trying too hard not to heave from the stress. She hung up and dialed Neo’s office, each insistent pound on the glass doors leading to her bedroom making her body flinch.
Her call went to voice mail and she couldn’t remember what she said in the message, just that she left one.
She went into the bathroom, shut the door, locked it and prayed for the media to leave.
She was still there, curled up in a ball between the old-fashioned clawfoot tub and the wall, when someone knocked on the bathroom door itself. “Cassandra! Are you in there? Open the door, pethi mou. It is Neo.”
Neo was out of the city. His personal assistant had said so. She shook her head at the door, another layer of perspiration coming over her already clammy skin.