“Your mother brought her to visit?”
“That was cruel.”
He shrugged. To his way of thinking, it had been much more cruel when his mother stopped bringing Iola. Some might have thought he would be jealous of the baby, but Zephyr had adored Iola from the very beginning. He had been heartbroken when his mother’s husband had insisted Leda stop bringing his sister to visit when she was two.
But just like when he had begged to be taken with her, his mother turned deaf ears to his pleas to see the little girl he had allowed himself to love.
“I thought she was the most amazing being ever. I was in awe of her.”
“What did she think of you?”
“I don’t know. Her father did not want her to wonder about me, so my mother stopped bringing her on the visits when she was old enough to begin remembering them. My mother only brought my brother a handful of times as an infant for the same reason.”
“Clearly, they don’t want to forget you. Not if your sister insisted you meet her children.”
“I take care of them.” And even his stony heart could be moved by the little ones who called him Uncle Zee.
“You think that’s the only reason they want you in their lives?”
“Maybe for the same reason I’d want you in my life even if I didn’t work with you.” How could he be so unaware of his own true worth? she wondered.
He didn’t believe her, but he appreciated the sentiment.
“Does your brother-in-law work for you?” Piper asked.
“How did you know?”
“You said you take care of them. Does your brother work for you as well?”
“No. He’s academically brilliant. He’s finishing his doctoral thesis in physics right now.”
“Let me guess, you’ve paid for his education.”
She threw her arms around him and kissed him, far more exuberantly than he had kissed her just a moment ago. “You are an amazing man, Zephyr Nikos.”
He shook his head, but he was no idiot. He kissed her back and enjoyed the moment while it lasted, all the while wondering what in the hell was wrong with him that he had shared so much with Piper.
Maybe this friends-who-shared-sexual-intimacy wasn’t such a good idea after all. He couldn’t give her love and this openness was bound to give her the wrong impression.
HE TOOK her to the Plaka after she’d soaked in all the history she could from the Acropolis ruins. That, and the fact that visiting hours were over. He could have arranged for special dispensation but wanted to take her shopping in the ancient marketplace.
It was a tourist’s paradise and Piper in tourist mode was completely charming. It also put them back on the kind of solid ground he understood. They found a shop that made authentic reproductions of ancient Greek jewelry and he bought her a necklace that would not have looked out of place on the neck of a senator’s wife.
Piper had balked at the cost, but he had stood firm. If he wanted to buy her a souvenir of their time in Athens, he would.
He could afford to spoil her and she deserved to be spoiled. Especially after the way that bastard of an ex-husband had treated her. Zephyr would not pretend to give her love as Art had, but he could afford to give her gifts. And he would.
Later that night, on the terrace of an exclusive restaurant, Piper found herself enjoying the understated, elegant décor that managed to still convey the flavor of Athens. Like most Greek restaurants, the majority of the seating was outside. However, this restaurant did not have the crowded, noisy ambiance of the cafés in the Plaka.
As much as she had enjoyed the historic shopping district closed off to automobile traffic, she appreciated the relative quiet of their current setting. Very much.
“Is this a favorite haunt of yours when you are in the country?”
“It is actually.” Zephyr’s brows furrowed. “How did you know?”
“I don’t imagine the staff know most American businessmen by name, no matter how rich and powerful.”
Looking oh so sexy in a light Armani sweater and bodyhugging designer jeans, his lips quirked in his signature wry smile. “Point.”
She was glad to see his smile. He’d seemed to draw back emotionally after opening up to her on the Acropolis. It was as if he regretted sharing so much about his past and needed to bring their focus firmly back to the present.
She could understand that. Zephyr was not a guy to wallow in emotion. Heck, he wasn’t a guy to feel emotion a lot of the time, as far as she could see. But she’d realized something as they shopped in the Plaka—she felt plenty toward Zephyr. In fact, she was drowning in emotion for him and that emotion only had one name. Love.