Bound By Her Shocking Secret by Abby Green


AT MIASFRONTdoor she stopped and turned to face Daniel, who was behind her, taking up an inordinate amount of space in the small landing. ‘Can you just give me a minute? I need to make sure Lexi is okay and if she sees you she might get upset... She’s not used to men being in the apartment.’

Mia hated admitting that, but there were more important considerations right now.

She could see the struggle on Daniel’s face. Eventually he said, ‘Five minutes, Mia.’

Mia turned back and opened the door and slipped inside. Simone appeared in the doorway to the bedroom, holding a flushed-looking Lexi. Mia’s heart clenched. She was a mini carbon copy of the man outside the door. Dark curly hair framed a cherubic face and huge grey eyes. But, as Mia was discovering lately, the cherubic exterior could change in a heartbeat to something far less angelic!

‘Mama!’ Lexi held out her arms and Mia scooped her into her chest, murmuring words of comfort while assessing her.

Her friend Simone said, ‘I’m so sorry, Mia, I probably overreacted. But I’ve never seen a baby get sick before and it scared the life out of me.’

Mia sent her a wry smile. ‘Honestly, it’s way better to overreact than do nothing. This little one has given me quite a few scares along the way.’

Mia took Lexi into the bathroom and checked her temperature. A couple of minutes later she let out another sigh of relief. ‘Normal.’

Her friend grinned and chucked Lexi under the chin, making her giggle. ‘You little fiend—you had me all wound up!’

Aware that Daniel was undoubtedly pacing up and down outside her front door, Mia said, ‘Look, thanks, Simone. You should try and make something of your evening while you can.’

Her friend looked at her. ‘You could go back to the party if you want?’

There was a peremptory knock on the door. Her friend frowned. Mia shook her head. ‘I don’t need to go back.’

Mia walked to the door with her, Lexi a sleepy weight in her arms. Her friend gathered her bag and coat and looked at her with a mischievous expression. ‘Did you bring the party home?’

Mia smiled weakly at the thought of Daniel’s grim face. ‘Not quite.’

She opened the door and could see Simone’s eyes widen as she took in the vision of an impatient Daniel Devilliers being made to wait.

Ever the gentleman, though, he greeted her friend. ‘Good evening.’

Mia remembered her manners. ‘Simone, this is Daniel Devilliers. Simone is an old friend of mine. She was kind enough to babysit this evening.’

Her friend was uncharacteristically silent. When Mia looked at her she was staring at Daniel as if she’d never seen a man before, and then she looked at Lexi. And then at Mia, who said hurriedly, ‘Thanks again for tonight.’

Simone left.

Alone again, Mia sucked in a breath and steeled herself to deal with Daniel—only to find him staring at Lexi with such an arrested expression on his face that she immediately felt concern.

‘What is it?’

She looked down at Lexi to check her, but she seemed fine. Her colour had gone back to normal. She had her thumb in her mouth and she was just looking at Daniel.

Mia looked at him again and could see that he was pale. Did he see the marked resemblance?

A little nervously she asked, ‘Are you okay? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.’

Daniel didn’t even hear what Mia was saying. All he could see was his sister’s face. Right in front of him. The same black curly hair. Huge eyes. Rosebud mouth. Plump cheeks. She’d used to reach out her pudgy arms and call him to lift her up. ‘Danny... Danny.’ Even when she could say Daniel, she’d used to keep calling him Danny.

He could still hear the panicked shriek of his name as if it was yesterday, and then the splash of water...

‘Daniel... Daniel?

The past receded and he saw Mia was looking at him. He felt exposed.

She stepped back. ‘Please, come in.’

Mia went into the small apartment and he followed her. High ceilings gave it a sense of space. It was uncluttered. Simple. Comfortable furniture demonstrated Mia’s good eye for classic pieces. He remembered that from her old apartment. How he’d found it soothing.

Lexi’s face appeared over Mia’s shoulder as she twisted to look at Daniel. She took her thumb out of her mouth and declared, ‘Man!’

Mia turned around to face Daniel. The sight of his ex-lover in a full-length evening gown holding a child—his child—was almost incomprehensible.

‘What happened just then?’ Mia asked.

Reluctantly Daniel said, ‘She reminded me of someone.’


Even more reluctantly, Daniel said, ‘My sister.’

Mia frowned. ‘You never mentioned you had a sister.’

A solid weight lodged in Daniel’s chest. ‘She’s dead.’

‘Oh... I’m sorry.’

‘It was a long time ago.’

‘But Lexi reminds you of her?’

Daniel couldn’t help nodding, looking at the child again. It was too huge to think of her as his. As his daughter. ‘They could have been twins.’

Mia made a small sound and Daniel’s gaze moved to her. She’d gone pale again.

Before he could wonder about her reaction she shifted the baby in her arms and said, ‘I need to change her, give her a bottle and put her down—then we can talk. Help yourself to a drink, or there’s a coffee machine in the kitchen.’ She turned, but then stopped, looked back. ‘That is if you still drink coffee like you used to...’

Another memory blasted Daniel. Mia shaking her head and saying, ‘Honestly, you drink too much of that stuff—it’s no wonder you can’t sleep.’

She’d taken the coffee cup out of his hand to come and straddle his lap, pushing aside his laptop on which he’d been looking at a document. He’d looked up at her, at the wild tumble of her tawny hair over her shoulders. She’d been wearing only his shirt, haphazardly buttoned, the luscious curve of her breasts clearly visible.

He’d put his hands on her waist. No underwear. His hands had explored the smooth roundness of her buttocks, finding the centre of her exposed body, making her squirm against him as his mouth had fastened on one taut nipple and—

‘...back in a few minutes...’

Daniel blinked. Mia was disappearing into another room, presumably a bedroom. The door closed behind her. He took a deep breath and ran a hand through his hair, still reeling from the vividness of the memory and the fact that there was no doubt in his mind that the child she’d held in her arms just now was his. His daughter.

So all that left was the burning question of how on earth it could be possible.

Daniel spied the drinks trolley in a corner of the room and went over, finding an unopened bottle of whisky and a tumbler. He poured himself a generous shot and swallowed it in one gulp, the fire racing down his throat doing little to make him feel any calmer.

Mia looked down at a sleeping Lexi for a long minute, knowing it was futile to delay the inevitable any longer. Daniel had been waiting for half an hour now—she could only imagine how irritated he would be. He’d never been good at waiting for other people, having little tolerance of those who couldn’t keep up with his demanding pace.

But babies adhered to their own schedule, and it had taken some time to put Lexi down after the distraction of Simone babysitting her and then the strange man. But Mia was certain that she was okay now, and that was the main thing.

Mia stepped away from the cot and realised she was still wearing the evening dress. It felt too constrictive now. Too revealing. She quickly pulled down the side zip and tugged the dress down and off, finding a pair of worn jeans and a long-sleeved shirt, doing up the buttons hurriedly.

She tugged at her hair, pulling it down from the elaborate up-do, knowing it would look unkempt and wild, but it made her feel more herself.

She took a breath and opened the door, and saw Daniel immediately. Impossible not to in the small space which seemed even smaller now. He was sitting on her two-seater couch, dwarfing it to Lilliputian proportions. He’d taken off his jacket and his bowtie was hanging loose. One arm was stretched carelessly across the back of the couch and one ankle rested on the knee of his other leg.

He looked relaxed, but Mia could feel the tension. He had a glass resting on his bent knee, the golden liquid at the bottom catching the light.

He lifted the glass towards her. ‘I hope you don’t mind? I had to open the bottle.’

She shook her head. ‘No, of course not.’

Her throat felt dry. She went and sat on the edge of the armchair that faced the couch, feeling like a guest in her own apartment. Part of her longed for a drink too, to give her some sense of confidence, but she also needed her wits about her. Daniel Devilliers had an ability to make her forget...everything.

‘So, are you going to explain to me how it’s possible that I have a child—a daughter—when the last time I saw you was in hospital, after you’d miscarried the baby?’

Mia was clasping her hands so tight she wasn’t aware of her knuckles showing white. The memory of Daniel standing at the foot of her bed, pale and grim, was still too vivid. And those words.

‘It’s probably for the best.’

She shook her head, as if that could rearrange her thoughts into some sort of coherency.

‘Mia, you owe me an explanation.’

She looked at Daniel and realised that he must have thought she didn’t intend telling him. She stood up, agitated. Too many memories were crowding out the present moment.

‘I know. I just... Give me a second, okay?’

She went over to the window that looked out over the rooftops of the Parisian buildings nearby. Always one of her favourite views. She could see other people moving around their apartments. She could also feel Daniel’s gaze, boring between her shoulderblades.

She turned around, arms folded. Before she could speak, though, she saw Daniel’s gaze drop to her chest. Something flashed in his eyes. Something that was all too memorable and that precipitated an answering flash of heat in her solar plexus. She looked down to see that she’d done the buttons of her shirt up wrongly and there was a clear view of her ample cleavage through the gap above her folded arms.

She cursed and quickly uncrossed her arms, fingers fumbling to straighten the buttons. Embarrassment flooded her. She hoped he didn’t think she’d done it on purpose.

When she looked up again, Daniel was sipping his drink, expressionless. More embarrassment flooded Mia—she must be imagining this heat. The man had been married, and he’d probably taken countless lovers since. She knew how voracious he was in bed. A man like that would crave stimulation.

Now he frowned. ‘Mia...’

Right. The baby. Lexi.

She cursed herself. She couldn’t blame the baby for baby brain when she was eighteen months old.

Suddenly an expression crossed Daniel’s face. Something like shock. He put his glass down on the table and moved his leg, sitting forward. ‘Did you lie about the miscarriage?’

It took a second for his question to register, and then Mia recoiled in horror. ‘No, of course not. How could you think such a thing?’

Daniel stood up. He waved a hand in the direction of the bedroom. ‘Well, how else can you explain the baby?’

The baby.

All of Mia’s protective instincts snapped into place. ‘Her name is Lexi. She’s your daughter.’

Daniel’s jaw clenched. ‘A daughter I had no idea existed until about an hour ago.’

Mia deflated. He was right. She forced herself to meet that penetrating grey gaze. ‘I did have a miscarriage. I would never have lied about that.’

‘Go on.’

In a rush, Mia explained. ‘It was twins. But I didn’t know that at the time. And they didn’t pick it up in the hospital. I only discovered I was still pregnant about a month later, when I knew something wasn’t right.’

‘So why didn’t you tell me then?’

Because she’d found out on the day of Daniel’s dynastic wedding. The official engagement announcement had come about a week after Mia had miscarried. He’d wasted no time in moving on with his life. And even though the wedding had been a fairly modest affair, and conducted in the office of a mairie, it had still made headlines all over the world.

She avoided his eye, feeling as if he could see all the way through her to where her hurt still resided. ‘I wasn’t very well. I had an infection. I almost lost Lexi. To be perfectly honest, the reason I didn’t tell you when I realised I was still pregnant was because I didn’t know if everything would be okay.’

‘Clearly it was.’

Mia nodded, forcing herself to look at him again. ‘Yes, thankfully. As the pregnancy progressed I got healthier, and the birth was without complication.’

‘And your reason for not telling me then was...?’

Mia looked at him, wondering how on earth she could start to try and explain a process that she didn’t even fully understand herself, even though she’d been through it. How to explain how her world had contracted to only her baby and how every day had been a feat of survival and coping and learning how to navigate a new world. A terrifying one. Not to mention the bone-crippling exhaustion. The constant mental fog. She felt it would sound paltry. Weak.

She said, ‘I did think of contacting you a few times, but Paris seemed very far away and I was afraid of what the news would do to your marriage...your wife. The longer it went on the harder it got to make contact, and then when I did try I didn’t get very far.’

He frowned. ‘You haven’t been in Paris all this time?’

She shook her head. ‘No, I moved down to the south of France after we...after I lost the baby. A fresh start. A friend has a small modelling agency down there. I did some catalogue work. That’s where I discovered I was still pregnant and had Lexi. I’ve only been back in Paris a few weeks.’

Daniel seemed to take a moment to absorb this. As the silence grew, so did Mia’s sense of guilt. The full enormity of what she’d kept from the father of her child was hitting her now.

Defensively she said, ‘Based on your reaction to finding out about the pregnancy the first time around, I knew you weren’t likely to be more receptive the second time.’

Daniel wanted to say that that wasn’t fair, but he knew he had little defence against her statement. Mia had turned up in his office about a month after they’d split up, pale and visibly nervous.

Much to his disgust—because usually women...lovers...didn’t linger in his mind or memory when he was done with them—seeing Mia again had precipitated a surge of desire as strong as if they’d never parted. Much the same as when he’d seen her again this evening.

He’d just arranged to have a meeting with Sophie Valois to discuss the proposed marriage, and seeing Mia again in the flesh had made him realise that his decision to go ahead with the meeting with Sophie had had a lot to do with her. Because she’d got too close. She’d got under his skin in a way that no other lover had, prompting him to remember that he didn’t want any emotional entanglements. And that perhaps an arranged marriage was the perfect solution to carving out a life free of such risks.

His parents had been unloving, cruel and dysfunctional, breeding in him a desire never to repeat their mistakes or visit their toxicity on another generation. The grief of losing his sister had almost destroyed him, and guilt for his part in her death had given him a lifelong sense, rightly or wrongly, that he didn’t deserve the happiness that most people seemed to expect and take for granted as their due.

And yet the day that Mia had seen the article about his proposed engagement in the paper, when he’d seen the hurt in her eyes, he’d suddenly resented the guilt and the grief and the darkness that had dogged him all his life. The duty he’d taken on. The responsibilities. A tantalising vision of another kind of life had existed in his mind’s eye for a moment, before he’d reminded himself that he was not that person. He was not the kind of man who could offer an uncomplicated life to Mia. Nor did he want to—no matter how much he’d enjoyed his time with her.

When Mia had robustly denied she’d been looking for anything ‘more’, he’d told himself he’d imagined the hurt in her eyes. She was the most independent woman he’d ever met. He’d walked away, vowing never to let another woman get that close again. It had made him yearn briefly for an existence that wasn’t possible for him. It wasn’t his due.

Daniel had spent the next month restoring his sense of control. Realising that while he’d been consumed with Mia he’d taken his eye off the business and that his attention was needed to get it back on track. He’d buried himself in spreadsheets and projections. Meeting new jewellery designers. But nothing had seemed to pierce the numbness.

Until she’d appeared in his office that fateful day. Hair pulled back. Wearing jeans and a soft long-sleeved top. Looking pale.

He’d had to battle a primal urge to haul her against him, to trace every contour of her body with his hands and mouth until she was breathless and pliant in his arms.

His helpless reaction had made him curt. ‘What do you want, Mia?’

Because, ultimately, everyone wanted something from him, and in that moment he’d desperately wanted Mia to show him that she was just as avaricious as every other woman he’d ever met—that she couldn’t be all that different.

And then she’d blurted out, ‘I’m pregnant.’

Daniel’s insides had turned to ice. Pregnant. A baby. The very scenario he’d vowed to avoid. In that moment all he’d been able to think about was the cavernous dark chateau where he’d grown up. His mother’s twisted angry face. His father’s endless cold dismissal. And, worst of all, his sister, floating face-down...

He’d said to Mia, ‘How can you be pregnant? We used protection every time we were together.’

Mia had blushed and said, ‘We did...but the last few times...maybe we weren’t as careful as usual...’

And his conscience had stung, because she’d been right. As zealous as he usually was about protection, the heat between him and Mia had been growing, not diminishing, and there had been moments when passion had overcome the need to be cautious.

Daniel looked at Mia now, disentangling the past from the present. He knew he owed her an explanation for why he’d behaved so coldly that day—the day she’d come to tell him of the pregnancy, only to then, a short time later, double over with pain in his office, which had precipitated a dash to the hospital and the subsequent miscarriage.

He’d found out about the pregnancy and lost it within hours.

He’d tried to explain at the hospital that day, but it had been too late. She hadn’t wanted to hear and he hadn’t blamed her.

‘The reason I wasn’t...receptive to the idea of a baby was because I’d never had any intention of having children. A family...’ His voice felt rusty from the weight of past memories.

Mia unfolded her arms. She frowned. ‘But what about the business? If you don’t have children, what happens to Devilliers?’

‘Things have changed. The brand name will exist whether it’s in the family or not.’

‘You would let the business go?’

‘No, I would ensure that the brand lives on no matter what, whether that’s through a bloodline or via a trust.’

‘I didn’t have a child with your wife.’

Daniel folded his arms. ‘Ex-wife. And, no. We didn’t. The marriage wasn’t about that.’

He could see that that had sparked Mia’s curiosity but he had no intention of going into detail about his marriage.

It was slowly sinking in, amidst the onslaught of too many memories and the resurgence of a very inconvenient desire, that he was a father. It was a fait accompli. A situation he’d never envisaged allowing to happen. Yet it had.

‘Look,’ Mia said, ‘I just wanted to let you know... I’m sorry I didn’t tell you before now. I should have made more of an effort. You’ll probably want to do a DNA test—’


‘To prove that she’s yours...’

‘I know she’s a Devilliers.’

Now Mia folded her arms. ‘Well, she’s not a Devilliers. She’s a Forde.’

Daniel felt something very alien take root inside him. A sense of possessiveness. Proprietorial.

‘She’s a Devilliers, Mia. Heiress to a vast fortune. Whether you like it or not.’

Mia felt a cold finger trace down her spine. She hadn’t expected Daniel to accept so quickly that Lexi was his. She’d been prepared for horror, shock, and then denial. She’d assumed that he would want to distance himself as quickly as possible.

She realised now she’d totally underestimated him and his reaction. And that she’d hoped that once she’d told him she would feel she had done her duty and could get on with her life.

She should have known better. She’d been ridiculously naive. Which was galling, because she’d lost any sense of naivety a long time ago.

‘I don’t expect anything from you, Daniel. I can support Lexi on my own. I just wanted you to know. And of course I would have told you eventually. I grew up not knowing my father. I wouldn’t have wanted that for Lexi.’

‘Yet she’s been without a father for eighteen months already.’

Mia’s face grew hot, and she felt panicky. She didn’t like the look on Daniel’s face. ‘You just said you’ve never wanted a family. Children. That day in the hospital you told me that the miscarriage was probably for the best.’

Daniel’s jaw clenched and unclenched. ‘Because after the childhood I experienced I never wanted to risk inflicting the same on another innocent child.’

Mia’s panic drained away. ‘You never spoke of your childhood or your family. It was that bad?’

Daniel was grim. ‘It was worse.’

Mia had always had an impression of him standing apart from everyone else. She’d used to tease him that it was because he thought he was better than everyone else around him, and for the most part he was certainly superior—intellectually, physically. But now she saw something else. That perhaps his past had kept him apart from others.

There was something there she wanted to tease out, but not while she was under that grey gaze. The evening was catching up with her.

She said, ‘It’s late. Lexi might wake again. I need to watch her and make sure she’s okay. You should go back to your party.’

Daniel didn’t move. Mia was afraid he was going to refuse to leave. But then he glanced at his watch. And then back at her. ‘This discussion isn’t over, Mia. I’ll contact you tomorrow.’


He stopped in the act of pulling on his jacket. ‘But what?’

Mia knew it was futile to argue. ‘Okay.’

Once Daniel had left, Mia couldn’t relax. The awareness in her body lingered like an overload of electricity that had nowhere to go. She went over and stood at the window, just in time to see Daniel’s tall, broad figure emerging from her building and then disappearing again into the back of his sleek car.

She’d always wondered what he’d seen in her. She was nothing like the women from his world. She was somewhat of a free spirit. Independent. She wasn’t polished. Intellectual. Socially savvy.

But from the moment they’d met a powerful force had surged between them. She’d been one of about ten models who’d been hired to go to a shoot for Devilliers. She’d been surprised to be cast, as she knew their advertising campaigns and they were very slick. Effortlessly glamorous. Sophisticated.

Mia had known she didn’t really fit the brief, with her Californian aesthetic and her hair that refused to be tamed no matter how much product was used. In fact, she would have considered herself the very antithesis of a Devilliers model.

Yet there she was. Amongst lots of taller and far more angular models from Russia, the UK, France and Ukraine. She’d felt like the odd one out, with her more athletic shape and breasts that were probably three cup sizes bigger than everyone else’s put together. She wasn’t considered a plus-size model, but sample sizes were not her friend.

The stylist had kept passing her over for the shots and so, growing a little bored, Mia had found her way to the table where all the Devilliers jewels were laid out, guarded by at least two security guys.

Even though she had no love for jewellery, after a toxic experience a couple of years previously, there was one necklace that had stood out—an oversize ruby in a simple setting. A markedly different style the other ornate designs. More modern.

Mia had picked it up and fastened it around her neck and then looked in a mirror, lifting her hair and twisting it so that she could see how it looked. She’d grinned at herself, because of course it looked a bit ridiculous against her plain white T-shirt, and then she’d almost had a heart attack when a deep voice near her had said, ‘It suits you.’

Mia had dropped her hands and whirled around to see the tallest, most breathtakingly handsome man she’d ever laid eyes on. He’d been wearing a three-piece suit in steel-grey, and that was when she’d noticed his eyes. They’d reminded her of the slate-grey clouds that rolled in from the Pacific Ocean during storms.

Her heart had stopped for a long moment before palpitating back to life at double its regular rate. Mia had thought that after her experiences she was immune to a ridiculously handsome face, but evidently there was no accounting for taste. She’d assumed that he was one of the executives overseeing the shoot. She’d smiled sheepishly and reached behind her for the catch to take off the necklace, but he’d stepped forward.

‘Let me.’

She’d turned around again and he’d stepped up behind her, his scent reaching her nostrils, subtly potent and unashamedly masculine. She’d felt a flutter deep in her belly.

He’d said, ‘Lift your hair.’

She’d pulled it up and his fingers had brushed the back of her neck, turning the flutter into a tsunami of sensation.

He’d expertly undone the necklace and taken it off. Their eyes had met in the mirror, where she’d noticed he towered several inches over her. A tall woman herself, it wasn’t every day she met a man taller than her. But he had to be at least six foot four.

She’d only noticed then that the security guards had melted away discreetly. But before she’d been able to wonder about that, and who this man was, he’d said, ‘Come over to the set. I want to try something.’

Mia had turned to face him. She’d gestured to her clothes—jeans and the white T-shirt. ‘The stylist hasn’t dressed me yet.’ And she’d suspected had no intention of it. But she kept that to herself.

‘You’re perfect as you are.’

His accent was unmistakably French, but he spoke English fluently. He’d led her over to where there was a black backdrop and suddenly, as if a silent message had been issued, Mia had been surrounded by a flurry of activity. She’d been perched on a stool and over the next hour photographed with her hair up, down, and in various combinations of jewels. Necklaces—the one she’d tried on first, and then others—earrings, bracelets and rings.

And all the time the enigmatic man in the suit had watched her. It had been deeply unsettling, but also exciting. As if there was a line of tension tugging between only them, drawing her eyes back to him over and over again, to find he was looking at her with that impenetrable slate-grey gaze.

When the shoot had wrapped Mia had still been none the wiser as to who the man was, or why he’d instructed her to be photographed in the most inappropriate clothing to showcase the famous Devilliers jewels.

She’d gathered up her things and tried not to feel self-conscious about the fact that she was the only model who hadn’t been dressed in designer dresses, feeling fairly certain she wouldn’t be seeing any of the pictures they’d taken of her on a billboard any time soon.

And then, just when she’d hated herself for wondering where the man had disappeared to, she’d turned around to leave and had run straight into a steel wall. A very broad steel wall.

His hands had gone to her arms, to steady her and she’d looked up. He had been smiling and she’d almost lost her life. His mouth was perfect. Surprisingly sensual for a man, yet not remotely pretty. Sexy.

He’d taken his hands down and said, ‘I never introduced myself. I’m Daniel Devilliers, and I would very much like you to join me for dinner this evening.’